The Giving Tree of Denver has been called the city's most popular dispensary. In a state where recreational cannabis has been legal since 2014 and medical cannabis was voted in 16 years ago, this dispensary scores top marks in online reviews.
Known for its laid-back atmosphere and knowledgable staff, owner Adam Curtis opened up The Giving Tree six years ago as a medical marijuana dispensary. Locals say they love the vibe of this small dispensary with its friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
Nondescript is even too flowery to describe how discreet this dispensary is. It's flanked by a liquor store and a flower shop in a residential section of town called the Highlands - an area described by one resident as, "that quintessential border between Hispanic and hipster." If you weren't looking for it you might not find it.
First inside is a simple waiting room. Customers go to a window, show identification and when a budtender is available they are taken to the back. The digital sign above that doors reads "Now Serving 420."
On this Friday morning around 10 am, the clientele includes a young couple, two guys in their early twenties, two moms from Oklahoma and North Dakota, and an out-of-state couple in their early 60s who want to know more about cannabis and ALS.
The Giving Tree has customers from around the world
Once inside, you see a large map of the United States on the wall - the map dotted by hundreds of pushpins. Curtis says it shows where his clients have come from to buy cannabis. For him it represents prohibition, and shows that it's not working because people are willing so far to shop in a legal place.
Just beyond that hallway is a back room. It is tiny. And it's unique. In this city most dispensaries are either strictly medical or recreational. The Giving Tree is both. Curtis says it's called a co-terminus, two dispensaries under one roof, but two entirely separate businesses.
"They might as well be two miles down the road from each other, even though we're under a 900-square-roof, " he says.
Recreational and medical are two distinct areas of the business
Everyone from out-of-state must stay on the left side of the room. A rope separates the two, like a line-up in a classic movie theatre. Only card-caring medical patients in the state of Colorado can purchase the medical cannabis. Curtis says all the medical flower he sells is grown in-house, hand-watered and hand-trimmed. But the demand for recreational bud means he sometimes has to buy wholesale.
On the recreational side, Curtis boasts The Giving Tree is known for its selection of edibles. Working with medical patients who don't want to smoke cannabis, he saw the opportunity in the market. He says many older people like his parents won't vape or smoke, but are open to a cup of medicated tea.
There are 400 individual products lining the shelves: brownies, cookies, transdermal patches and pens, hard candies, gummies, beverages, bath salts, lotions, and candy bars. Each with a Sesame Street style sign above saying what "department" each product is in. Under glass sits a few dozen types of cannabis buds, which customers can look at up close and smell before purchasing.
"People are excited," Curtis says of the tourists who come in, saying it's a lot different than buying cannabis on the black market. And what makes him happiest is educating people about the health benefits of cannabis.
Listen to the full interview with Adam Curtis below.