I used to smoke cigarettes when I was a dumb teenager. I quit, though. And while I try not to pass judgment on my friends who still smoke them, I find burning tobacco to be among the most foul and offensive odors ever. I'm not alone. It's why we have bans on smoking cigarettes in bars, restaurants and most businesses. Those that do allow smoking make it very clear, so people like me can avoid them. Most smokers will even admit they prefer the clean air, too; I don't know many cigarette smokers who smoke inside their homes, for example. All of which made seeing someone with a lit cigar behind the receptionist window at A Cut Off the Top -- a medical dispensary -- that much more surreal.
A Cut Off the Top
2059 West 9th Avenue Denver, CO 80204 PHONE ACutOffTheTopMMJ.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. daily. Raw marijuana price range: $20-$35/eighth-ounce (tax not included), $220-$280/ounce. Members receive about 10 percent off purchase. Other types of medicine: Hash oil for vape pen refills, wax, kief. Online menu? No. Handicap-accessible? Yes. Recreational sales? No.
I felt like I had walked through a time warp in the waiting room. Back to the gross days pre-2007, when tobacco smoking was legal indoors. It's apparently nothing new for the shop. Customer reviews going back to February on Weedmaps complain about the smoke odor. Nobody was smoking in the lobby or the bud bar, and most of the cloud seemed to be back in the employees-only areas, but it still caused the entire shop to reek of stale cigarette smoke, like someone had just crushed a butt. I nearly walked out, but figured I would have to eventually come back to review the place and it was best to just do it, even if I left smelling like an ashtray at a biker bar.
I don't want to sound hypocritical here, because I do smoke cannabis. But even cigarette smokers will tell you that pot smoke doesn't linger like tobacco, and I still dislike smoking pot indoors when I can help it. Cannabis events indoors tend to be just as gross when the smoke gets thick. Even when I do puff indoors, I don't sit in the smoke, and have even gone so far as to install an industrial vent fan in my home office.
Judging by Cut's Facebook photos, the place was pretty clean and neat at one point. But the day I stopped in, it felt dingy and dirty -- made even worse by the constant stank of Marlboro. Old bits of bud and dust collected in the tracks of the sliding glass cabinet doors, half-eaten food was stacked in the edibles fridge, and pallets of water and soda were left half open in the middle of the room. The work space behind the bud bar was cluttered and full of junk, too. Appearance might not matter to some people, but like I said last week: If you aren't putting effort into your storefront, you probably aren't putting effort into much else.
Continue for the rest of the review and photos. That was clearly the case at A Cut Off the Top, where the buds all looked like someone had already taken the cut off the top and left the customers with the shakey, leafy bottom buds. There must have been forty strains split between four shelves in the L-shaped display cabinet, and I was hard-pressed to find a single one that matched up with a proper smell or appearance. The Durban Poison didn't smell like Durban, and all of the Chem/Sour strains missed the funky diesel-lemon odors by a mile. Headband didn't have the ideal neon-green appearance or fuel stink, and the Strawberry Cough had a general hydro sweetness, but not much else. Nearly all of the strains looked leafy with undergrown calyxes. It made all the jars seem as if they were filled with shake.
Not much stood out, so I went for the two most plump-looking examples in the shop: the Flo and the Sour Willy. The Flo missed the mark entirely and actually had more Durban-like qualities than the strain labeled as Durban. It burned down clean -- I'll give it that much -- but with a spicy, musky flavor that is the complete opposite of the baby-powder/soil/white grape of Flo. Its buzz was uplifting and speedy, and it was surprisingly better overall than it looked in the store, but I still wouldn't go back and pay $35/eighth or up to $280 for an ounce of this. Their prices on herb are all just too high for the quality when compared to numerous other places around town.
The other strain I opted for was the Sour Willie, a cross of Willie Nelson and Sour Diesel. It didn't have any Sour D qualities in the odors or flavor and sported a general "ganja" taste rather than anything specific. Broken up, it had a strawberry-like sugariness, but nothing really came through that hinted at the Sour D lineage. It also burned clean in the bowl, but the potency just wasn't there. It helped some with morning cramping and kicking my appetite into gear, but the buzz wore off after only an hour, and I had to dip back into the jar for more. Again, not quality worth the $35 plus tax. Maybe $20 an eighth, sure, but that's it.
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My budtender was a nice guy who liked talking about pot, but he was selling me too hard on things. When I'd say a strain didn't look that good, he would say it was from the grow before he took over. Like the White Widow he handed me along with his recommendation: When I pointed out how burned and brown the buds were, he recanted and said it was left over from the old grower. He also pushed the shakey ends of Hashplant and a brown Maui x Hindu, and I eventually gave in on the Maui x Hindu only so I could remember just how larfy the buds were. (I didn't break up the buds in that photo at all before the shot). Getting a read on the smell of the strains was also hard, not only because most smelled identical, but (again) because I couldn't get stale nicotine out of my nostrils.
And that, frankly, is the biggest reason I won't be going back to A Cut Off the Top. The overpriced, undergrown herb is one thing, and the staff can fix it with a little effort and some trips to nearby competitors to see why their buds are overpriced. But smoking cigarettes in a medical marijuana dispensary is something I thought we had left back in the early days, when people were still opening up dispensaries and selling schwag out of their living rooms.