Medical marijuana dispensary review: Garden of the Gods in Denver

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This dispensary has closed.

In high school, my friends and I used to buy weed from a guy who lived in some shady apartments. The dude only let one or two people actually come buy weed, so the parking lot of his apartment complex always looked suspiciously shady, with us kids hanging out smoking cigs and what little weed we had on us. I hadn't thought about that in probably ten years, but I instantly flashed back to it pulling up to Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods

5050 York Street Denver, CO 80216 303-292-3383 www.gardenofthegodsinc.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Raw marijuana price range: $25/eighths, $180 ounces. $40/eighth special strains. Online menu: Yes. Other types of medicine: Edibles. Handicap accessible? Yes.

Now and then, it's not unusual to park at a dispensary and see someone behind the wheel of a running car in the parking lot waiting for a friend inside buying meds. Not everyone has a card; I get that. The parking lot of Garden of the Gods, however, had at least four cars stacked full of people, with a few more lingering outside smoking cigarettes by the massive green wooden wheelchair ramp leading up to the shop's front door. My guess is that there were probably a dozen people waiting for someone inside to finish up.

Garden of the Gods has two locations -- one on South Federal in Denver, and the one I visited, in a huge warehouse in a heavily industrial area of York Street. Judging by the size of the place and the volume of herb I saw leaving it during my short visit, the center has quite a large grow operation going on in the back. I walked in and handed my paperwork over to the receptionist. A uniformed security guard looked me over, likely decided my skinny, stoned ass wasn't any real threat, and went back to flirting with her.

There's no real waiting area; you just mill around while the people ahead of you do their consulting and purchasing. It was actually much nicer inside than I had imagined, though by no means was it fancy. Just some pale-green paint on the walls, free water and iced-tea stations and a tastefully done display-shelf thing housing a selection of the cheap glass pipes in the shapes of birds and fish, plus a decent assortment of edibles made by other companies (which I later realized are probably the only worthwhile thing in the shop). So I stood around waiting and watching SportsCenter on the 50-inch-plus flat-screen on the wall.

I wasn't meaning to eavesdrop, but I couldn't help noticing the guy dressed up like a thrift-store pimp in a beat-up leather jacket and semi-matching Kangol hat ahead of me. He stepped up to the counter and greeted the budtenders by name before asking for two ounces of some strain that he said he had picked up the other day. I looked over at the other bar, and another dude was buying two ounces, packed up in fattened Ziploc bags. As people have said before in online forums and on the Garden of the Gods WeedMaps reviews, the shop is basically a clearinghouse for ounces. And at $180 for an ounce, tax included, the price is great. Unfortunately, the herb isn't.

After the dude in front of me had paid, stuffed his ounces in his jacket and walked off, it was my turn. Behind the counter was a room nearly the size of the waiting area, where six or seven budtenders were all bagging up herb or helping patients. Bud is kept in large jars on shelves on the back wall. My budtender was a younger woman who looked tired and ready to be done with her day. She asked me if I preferred sativa, "indiga" or hybrids in a no-bullshit way and started pulling down jars before I could finish telling her that I preferred sativa-dominant strains.

First up was the Sour Diesel and Durban Poison, two strains with relatively unique and distinctive qualities about them that are hard to miss; Sour D with a sweet-but-tart lemony diesel-fuel finish, and the Durban with a spicy, peppery haze over a light fruit sweetness. Neither lived up to their fame in this shop. The Sour D had the right look and a very light smell from the genetics, but for the most part, the buds seemed to be rushed through drying and curing. The Durban had a more pronounced smell, but the buds were schwappy from what was obviously a harvest that was premature by several weeks. As I sniffed through those, the budtender pulled down a few more for me to check out, including a smell-free Sweet Tooth, a leafy Sweet Diesel, AK, ISS, Sour Kush and a few others I failed to get down in my notes after I left. For the price-conscious shopper at an already cheap shop, shake ounces that I probably wouldn't even have made hash from sell for $50.

For better or worse, Garden of the Gods is also somewhat famous for its exclusive in-house strain, Escobar. It is apparently so coated in crystals that some have said it's dusted in something other than THC, and I've even been told by people who have tried it that it made them physically ill. I asked the budtender about it, and she said that they didn't carry it anymore. What they do have is the Poison Ivy, which the budtender says is the mother plant of the Escobar. She slapped a jar with a sample on the counter, and it looked like standard warehouse-grade bud turned to caviar, with a snake of dark-brown hash oil running through it like Christmas lights on a tree. It sells for $40 an eighth, and the budtender said the purchaser must sign a waiver. You read that right: sign a waiver. For a plant that has never killed anyone in recorded medical history. I stared at the poor girl in disbelief before declining to spend the extra money on something I wouldn't want to smoke.

With people piling up behind me and nothing really standing out on the shelves, I chose the Sour D and the Sweet Diesel simply because they were in front of me and they were pretty representative of Garden of the Gods stock as a whole. The place is cash-only, so hit your bank up beforehand if you want to avoid service charges on the ATM; otherwise, it's a few bucks, and the shop gives you a free joint for using it. The budtender weighed out my purchases exactly to the hundredth of a gram and bagged them up in sandwich baggies that she rolled up tight and threw a sticker on as a seal. I walked out to my car, past the vehicle of a guy a few minutes ahead of me. The car was packed full of dudes waiting while he emptied a blunt out his window.

*note: This review originally listed an incorrect, third location for Garden of the Gods. It has since been removed.

Read on for strain reviews and photos. Sour Diesel: $25/eighth From what I saw in the shop, these were among the most visually appealing buds, with a truly strain-distinct appearance down to the pink-orange pistils, with dark green sugar leaves left over. And though it had mostly an uncured, wet-hay smell, the Sour D genetics were strong enough to give it a bit of the rubbery, new-tennis-ball smell. But when I got it home for a much better exam, the buds fell squarely in the "bulk-grown warehouse" category. Most buds give off more smell when broken up, but this Sour D somehow became more un-cured-smelling, giving off an almost fertilizer-ish smell. It burned very harsh, especially in comparison to a sample a trusted friend and grower gave me a few days ago from his own garden. It popped like a balloon on my first hit, scratching up my throat both on inhale and exhale. I'll admit that a few minutes later, I did get a light Sour D taste from the bud, but the headachey, dirty buzz from the buds stood out more. Sweet Diesel: $25/eighth I'm usually the first person to defend the loose "Colorado trim" on buds that leaves some of the sugar leaves behind. But this was just lazy. The shitty little scraps contain more leaf material than they do actual buds. Stuff like this is usually turned into hash. To the shop's credit, the buds were coated in trichomes and they have great visual appeal because of it. But opening up the Ziploc after a few days, I got a whiff of the nose-turning, acrid nastiness that can be an indication of powdery mildew. My scope is out of commission, so I didn't get a closer look at anything, but I could see some questionable spots on the many leftover fan leaves where PM loves to hang out. Broken up, the buds let out a sweet, cedar-like smell. Still, it wasn't enough to overcome the ickiness of the PM smell. I didn't smoke any of this, and it's still sitting in the baggie it came in.

William Breathes is the pot pen name for Westword's medical marijuana dispensary critic. Read more of his reviews on our marijuana blog, Mile Highs and Lows and keep up with all your ganja news over at The Latest Word.

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