It's hard to believe that it has been two years since I last visited the Giving Tree in Denver. Time flies when you're stoned. Most everything has remained physically the same about the shop, but the space was never an issue; it was seeds. But the quality of herb seems to have gone up while the prices dropped -- two changes that any returning customer would be happy to find.
2702 West 38th Avenue Denver, CO 80211 303-477-8888 www.tgtree.com Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Online menu: Yes. Other types of medicine: Hash, edibles, tinctures, lotions, BHO. Handicap-accessible?: Yes.
The shop entry leads to a small, slightly cramped but nicely appointed waiting room with freebie non-medicated brownies and muffins on a small coffee table outside the receptionist's window. On the other side of the small space, a live concert DVD of a Matisyahu concert played to nobody in particular.
I handed my paperwork over to the girl behind the window. She looked it over, then mentioned that she hadn't seen me in a while. I couldn't tell if she knew exactly who I was and never mentioned it, but I got the feeling that someone somewhere had marked my patient file after my 2010 visit.
I snagged a cup of water from a dispenser and sat on the couch reading through People magazine as she re-entered my information. While I waited, two other patients came in the shop; they were greeted on a first-name basis and sent right through to the back. Later, owner Adam Curtis told me that the center sees about a 90 percent return rate on patients these days -- something I would attribute to the drop in pricing from $50 an eighth for members two years ago to a $35 cap on meds, with strains as low as $25.
After I'd waitied about five minutes on the far side of the room, the receptionist looked out and realized I was still sitting in the waiting room. Embarrassed, she apologized for forgetting about me and buzzed me to the back, where Curtis was waiting as my budtender. A friendly sort, Curtis talks fast, like a guy with a lot on his mind.
If Curtis knew who I was, he didn't let on, either -- but he certainly seems to care about helping patients. At one point during my consultation, he pulled out a stack of notes he's been keeping for the past two years that detailed patient ailments and the strains staffers have found to help them. And he was so adamant about me trying certain strains that he threw in a free half-gram of P.O.G. on the condition that I Iet him know if it helped my nausea (it did).
I distinctly remember the somewhat damp and mid-grade selection Giving Tree had during my last visit, which made seeing jars full of organic, stinky strains like Kong, Himalayan Gold and Green Crack all the more impressive. Like all MMCs, the shop has been forced to grow its own over the last year -- but that seems to have helped Giving Tree more than hurt it. The center didn't have any of the Kali Mist that I took home with seeds last time. The closest comparison was a jar of Kali Mist x Mango, which was full of big, fluffy buds and no seeds, from my inspection. The shop is still using humidipacks in some jars, which I don't like -- but their use didn't seem as widespread as it was during my last visit, either.
Since then, the hash bar has expanded to a full counter of bubble hash, strain-specific wax made from Giving Tree trim and a few buds of caviar. I spent a good four or five minutes looking through the different strains, and though the bubble wasn't solventless-wax consistency, it was decent pressed-icewater extraction.
As I was in, the other patients I mentioned came and went. One man got caught up in a pretty deep conversation with another budtender about everything from growing herb to being an outsider in high school. The shop seems to have really taken on a community feel over the past two years.
After an exhausting thirty-minute consultation with Curtis, who went over nearly every product in stock, I made the difficult cut down to three strains. I really enjoyed the patient focus and true medical direction Curtis took, but he also displayed a sense of humor and fun -- noting that having good-tasting bud can be almost as important as what it does for your medically.
Page down for strain reviews and photos.
Himalayan Gold Very cool strain from Green House that is said to have Nepalese origins and has a healthy amount of CBD tucked into its green buds. The smell bordered on kushy earthiness, with a deep, grape candy smell from the Mason jar in the shop. The buds lost some smell strength over a few days in the bag, but crushing them in my fingers brought out a rich, fuel-like nose backed by the goodness of the coco fiber soil it was grown in. The buds in the shop are left somewhat leafy, and my budtender did do some extra trimming before weighing out my one-tenth heavy grams -- but they still had a touch of the so-called Colorado Trim. Not that I mind a few sugar leaves, but some people might. Aside from being pleasantly euphoric and relaxing, Himalayan Gold is known as a creative strain. I've been smoking it over the last week while doing video editing, and while I can't say it's made my projects better, I'm enjoying the process a lot more. Definitely a strain I'd go back for.
Kong In the shop, this Kong reeked with a sweet diesel-fumey smell, much like the cut from Allgreens I brought home at the end of last year. Very pretty buds with crystal-coated calyxes and curled, slender sugar leaves that give it a fuzzy, fluffy look. After a few days in the plastic baggie, the gram of herb dried out and lost some of it's pizazz in the smell department, and it wasn't a heavy taster, either. Not bad, just not a full flavored kick to the taste buds like I had hoped to get. The sample didn't burn as clean as the Himalayan, charring down to black chunks of ash instead of a fine white powder. And while it didn't get too harsh, a bit more time flushing might have evened that out even more. Very cerebral, floating buzz from this cut that set me straight in the morning before breakfast and put me in a great mood for the rest of the morning.
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Blue Goo First, what an awful name for this strain. It sounds like the byproduct of two Smurfs smurfing. (Okay, had to get that out of the way.) The stock jar at the Giving Tree was recently topped off with the dense, dark green and purple nuggets still fresh enough to be spongy to the touch. Not wet, but not necessarily dried, either. After a few days at home the herb crisped up, but also lost some of the appealing lavender aroma that made it so attractive initially. Curtis suggested this strain for my morning belly cramps, though, not for the flavor, and he was spot on with his recommendation. Burned, it had a hint of organic soil behind the rich, expanding sweetness.
William Breathes is the pen name of Westword's wandering medical marijuana dispensary critic. Read more of his reviews in our pot blog, Mile Highs and Lows, and keep up with all your marijuana news over at The Latest Word.