Medical marijuana dispensary review: The Giving Tree

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As Colorado's medical-marijuana industry grows, marijuana dispensaries of all types and sizes are proliferating around the state. Some resemble swanky bars or sterile dentist offices; others feel like a dope dealer's college dorm room. To help keep them all straight, Westword is offering a no-holds-barred look at what goes on behind these unusual operations' locked doors in "Mile Highs and Lows," a regular online review of dispensaries around the metro area and beyond. (You can also search our directory of dispensaries for one near you.)

This week, William Breathes reviews the Giving Tree:

The Giving Tree 2707 West 38th Avenue 303- 477-8888 www.tgtree.com

Hours of operation: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Owner: Adam Curtis Owner's statement: (from the website) "We are committed to providing our patients SAFE and NATURAL alternatives to treat their pain and suffering, and have a wide variety of strains available, giving us the ability to make recommendations unique to each individual patient." Opened: December 2009 Raw marijuana price range: non-members -- $17/gram, $55/eighth before tax; members -- $15/gram $50/eighth (same for all strains). Other types of medicine: hash, kief, edibles, drinks, pre-rolled joints. Patient services and amenities: acupuncture, acupressure, shiatsu, deep-tissue, sports medicine.

Our take: For better or worse, the Giving Tree is doing things a little differently than other dispensaries.

For starters, its initial patient questionnaire isn't the normal boilerplate material crafted by a crafty lawyer. Along with the standard name-age-patient info, the dispensary asks questions about what strains you prefer, whether you find that smoking or eating helps your condition more, and whether you're looking for a more head- or body-type high. Owner Adam Curtis says this information helps him better select strains and edibles for his patients.

Appropriately, the Giving Tree is located next door to a florist in an old shopping center on West 38th Avenue, tucked into a tiny, somewhat discreet storefront. I plopped down on one of the oversized love seats that cram the small waiting room, filled out my paperwork and was buzzed back to the small and slightly stuffy bud bar. The setup there was nice, with two counters separated by a refrigerated display case full of Cheesecake Lady Edibles that made the place feel a bit like a deli. The beige walls were a welcome change from the seemingly mandatory green hues that most dispensaries opt for.

Instead of simply pointing out the best strains in the house or waiting for my questions, budtender Stephen started out right by asking me what I was in for and what sorts of medical qualities I look for in strains. He knew a lot about the stock and went into detail about the highs and tastes of nearly all the 27 different flavors before pulling out several jars of sativa-dominant. Some strains looked well done, while others, such as the Hawaiian, didn't seem as up to par -- but this is always going to be the case for any dispensary that relies on vendors to carry that much variety. The Giving Tree also had "squirming coils" of hash and a ton of pre-rolled joints at the counter.

The Giving Tree uses humidipacks in the jars -- something I've heard about but never encountered at other dispensaries. The small packets, traditionally seen in cigar humidifiers to prevent stogies from drying out -- slow-release moisture when opened. Although some patients view this as a way to add useless water weight to their marijuana, Curtis says he prefers his herb on the moist side as opposed to over-dried, and points out that the "optimal" humidity for medicine is between 69 percent and 72 percent. The packs also prevent the stock from drying out more every time a jar is opened. "I think [patients] would rather to have it so it's not powder," he says. Still, properly dried and cured ganja shouldn't turn to dust if it's mostly kept sealed -- even out here in Colorado.

The considerate budtender split an eighth between two strains for me: the Kali Mist and the Maui Haze. Inside the jar, the Kali Mist buds had looked good -- a tad stringy, maybe, but still hearty enough to be intriguing. But at home I was disappointed to see that the good nugs had clearly been at the top of the jar; what I got were wispy, leafy buds from the bottom. The Kali Mist had hints of purple as well as very light-green, fresh leaves, but the buds were underdeveloped and too moist from the humidipacks. Some of the stems snapped like they should, but most bent heavily before giving out. I also found seven seeds in the half-eighth. Thankfully, I noticed five of them while breaking up the herb -- but still wound up rolling two into a spliff that had my office smelling like shit. And the subsequent high was about as good as smoking two seeds and underdeveloped buds could be.

The dispensary has a policy for returning products for a refund or exchange if the patient isn't happy, Curtis says.

The other half of my eighth was some decent Maui Haze that had a strong smell in the big jar at the dispensary and decent crystal coverage. Again, though, I ended up with little pieces of nugs -- though these were much better developed than the Kali. A few days after I purchased it, the dense, dark green and orange buds were still a bit spongy, likely due to the humidipacks. Broken up, it smelled slightly like a mix of fresh-cut pine and fruit. The Maui wasn't a harsh smoke like the Kali, but better drying and curing might really help the flavor. And medicinally, it packed a much stronger and clearer high that I was able to enjoy -- though I talked my girlfriend's ear off at breakfast about nonsense and ended up finishing her omelet.

Overall, the Giving Tree seems to be making a true effort to widen the medicinal benefits of herb for its patients, and I think keeping track of more than just how much a customer purchases is commendable. But I also think a variety in price to match the variety of ganja would be a good move.

The Wildflower Seed and William Breathes are the pot pen names of our two alternating medical marijuana dispensary reviewers. Read their bios here.

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