Colorado, Get Ready For More Consolidated Cannabis

Brian Garret almost tripped as he approached his favorite dispensary, Sticky Buds, on September 3 — and it wasn’t because of Denver’s lousy sidewalks. Garret’s pot shop of choice on Colfax Avenue had a banner hanging out front, announcing new ownership.

“I called the other location [on South Broadway], and they said Solace Meds took over that one, too,” he said at the time. “Everything inside was pretty much the same, but things will probably change with time.”

Garret, who just wanted to get home for an after-work dab on a hot summer day, probably didn’t realize how metaphorical his statement was. Natural market evolution and new state laws allowing out-of-state investors, publicly held companies and more large venture funds to own pot companies have set up Colorado’s cannabis field for some big changes late this year.

Proponents of the legislation leading to the new laws said that as more states legalize recreational pot, Colorado had to change its rules so it could offer similar investment opportunities. Smaller business owners were split on the measure. While some mom-and-pops had been waiting for the day when they could sell their brands and business licenses to deep pockets, others viewed the move as a step toward corporate cannabis and consolidation.

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As publicly traded companies wait for the new laws to take hold November 1, privately held companies are already on the move. Solace Meds finished the Sticky Buds purchase in September. Over the past few years, two of the state’s largest dispensary chains, LivWell and the Green Solution, have each taken over a handful of independent dispensaries throughout Colorado. Lova, a new, privately held cannabis brand, has purchased five metro-area dispensaries this year: both MMJ America dispensaries in Denver (but not the Boulder location), Groundswell Cannabis Boutique, Northern Lights Cannabis Co.’s store in Edgewater and Boulder’s Trill Alternatives.

But those deals could seem like a trickle compared to the flood of acquisitions that will start in November, when the new investment regulations take hold. One company alone, Medicine Man Technologies, has announced enough deals to get the entire state high.

Over the past ten months, the Denver-based public cannabis company has agreed to purchase more than thirty dispensaries throughout Colorado. Recently reported deals, none of which can officially take place until November, include agreements to buy all three metro-area Colorado Harvest Company dispensaries, five Starbuds locations statewide and mountain dispensary chain Roots RX’s six dispensaries. Medicine Man Technologies also has plans in place to buy over ten more stores through the acquisition of southern Colorado chains Mesa Organics and Strawberry Fields, as well as Medicine Man, a metro-area chain of dispensaries co-owned by Medicine Man Technologies CEO Andy Williams. So far, the company hasn’t announced whether the acquired stores will transition into the Medicine Man brand, though the Starbuds change seems likely, as Starbuds still has several stores not included in the purchase as of yet.

Medicine Man Technologies has also announced deals to acquire Colorado cannabis extractors Dabble Extracts and Purplebee’s Extracts, as well as cultivation Los Sueños Farms, one of the largest outdoor cannabis-growing operations in the country. Other purchase agreements include research and medical marijuana firm MedPharm Holdings and Colombian medical marijuana licensee Green Equity. To top it off, the company also agreed to buy Medically Correct, the parent company of Incredibles Edibles, Incredibles Extracts and several other infused-product companies created by founder Bob Eschino.

The deals are enough to make your eyes scroll like a cartoon slot machine. Come November 1, all of those brands will be owned by one company — though it’s important to note that the majority of their founders and CEOs plan to stay on with Medicine Man Technologies.

Despite the company’s publicly ravenous appetite, other instrumental players in Colorado’s cannabis space have remained largely quiet. In September, Jeff Mascio, CEO of the Joint dispensary’s parent company, Cannabis One, said that his company had quite a few deals slated, but he couldn’t talk about them yet.

“Anything announced now can’t officially take place until the rule changes,” he noted, “but those who are taking the risk of being early will probably be rewarded.”

Medicine Man Technologies is certainly willing to take the risk. After all, since Governor Jared Polis has already signed the legislation into law, it’s unlikely that anything will prevent the rules from taking effect on November 1. And since company officials helped write the language for House Bill 1090, the legislation allowing looser regulations over cannabis company ownership, they definitely know how to walk the tightrope.

According to the company’s public declarations, most of the businesses are being acquired in exchange for Medicine Man Technologies stock. Bigger players are likely to enter the field soon, as seen by the action in Canada’s legal pot trade or the hemp industry, both of which have looser investment regulations.

And they’ll be moving quickly, since lucrative opportunities are somewhat limited in certain parts of the state. Easily Colorado’s largest cannabis market, Denver isn’t currently permitting new dispensary licenses, while Colorado Springs, the second-largest city in the state, doesn’t allow recreational sales. With few attractive locations available for those who want to start from scratch in an urban area, purchasing an existing dispensary license is one of the only ways to gain a footing in the country’s most evolved pot marketplace. For those already in the market, it’s a way to maintain your competitive advantage.

Brace yourselves: The mergers and acquisitions are just beginning.


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Cheesy Rider

I once received an email from a woman who claimed to have worked at a cheese shop across from Cheesman Park in the ’70s where employees allegedly sold weed under the counter. I couldn’t find much to confirm that story, though I did find that a place called The Big Cheese won a Best of Denver award for Best Cheese Shop in 1984, the first year Westword produced that edition — and maybe that bonus helped sway the judges.

Sad to say, the Big Cheese isn’t around anymore, but when I came across a strain by the name of Cheesy Rider at a dispensary in Cap Hill, it seemed like a fitting time to honor a cool place that might or might not have existed. An old head in the bud room told me that Cheesy Rider was actually a motorcycle-riding rodent mascot for Cheetos before Chester Cheetah took over, so the toking connection was too strong to pass up.

A cross between Biker Kush and a variety of U.K. Cheese cuts depending on the breeder, Cheesy Rider is infamous for having a wide stank radius. The potent hybrid is full of jacked-up whiffs of fruity, funky cheese, as those U.K. Cheese qualities are enhanced by Biker Kush’s fruity, earthy lineage of OG Kush, Blackberry and San Fernando Valley OG. Cheesy Rider’s smell, like a delicious wheel of Gouda, gets more pungent and refined with age, so enjoy it in the grow and cure those nugs as long as you can: It’ll only taste better.

Not only is Cheesy Rider’s sweet, creamy funk flavor-made for a picnic, but the high is, too. Each session with the strain provided an upbeat high without blurred concentration, amplifying daytime activities without draining energy. But each session also gave me a serious bout of the munchies, which can kill concentration on its own.

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We’ve spotted Cheesy Rider at Euflora, Green Dragon, Magnolia Road Cannabis Co., Nature’s Herbs and Wellness, and Verde Natural. My favorite versions have come from Nature’s Herbs and Wellness and Verde Natural; both smelled like plates of old cheese and strawberries, and helped me forget my woes after a couple of rough Sundays.

Looks: Like a rocket or stalagmite, Cheesy Rider has tall, pointed plants with long nugs. The hybrid strain leans indica in the grow, hitting medium height and producing dense calyxes. Those buds generally have a glow.

Smell: It’s cheesy, all right, but part of that aromatic explosion comes from Cheesy Rider’s Kush background, which adds to the smell’s horsepower. The combination starts out funky, sweet and cheesy, almost like some aged cheese and berries, followed by spicy, chalky smells of wet dirt and vanilla.

Flavor: Cheesy Rider’s earthy, spicy Kush aspects take the lead here, with those sweet and cheesy notes filling in the back and sides of your tongue. The taste is just as complex as the smell, but slightly less enjoyable when the cheese and fruit flavors don’t stand out.

Effects: Although the strain’s potency could floor a novice toker, Cheesy Rider’s high makes me curious, creative and talkative. Focus isn’t shot, and the euphoria and energy remains steady throughout the high.

Home grower’s take: “It smells so delicious and funky, but it’s really a collision of Skunk and OG genetics when you look into their backgrounds. Those fruity, cheesy hits are signs of evolving along the way. I had a friend spend good money on Cheesy Rider seeds, and let’s just say he was taken for a spin. Took damn near three months to flower, and his neighbors called him out about the smell coming from his house as the buds dried. I think it’s better set for people with room and experience, because it takes time and topping, and you want it nice and ripe.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Gushers

If there’s anything I miss about school, it’s bartering at the lunch table. Nothing was more satisfying than trading a limp PB&J and apple slices for a Lunchable and Hot Cheetos. (I hear prison offers a similar rush, but I don’t miss haggling that bad.) Rich, spoiled kids flaunting their junk food were always an easy target, as their friends selling Herbalife products have subsequently found out.

Although candy was still a rarity at school even for the rich and spoiled, other sweets weren’t. Twinkies, Fruit by the Foot and Squeezits were all hot commodities, but one dyed, sugary treat outranked them all: Gushers. The immense amount of corn syrup and colored goop was an instant draw for kids. So naturally, some of those same qualities are an instant draw for stoners.

A cross of Triangle Kush and a Gelato phenotype by the Bay Area’s Cookie Fam Genetics (the breeder that made Girl Scout Cookies so popular), the Gushers cannabis strain has a deep background that includes a Cookies lineage and old, mysterious Kush genetics from Florida. We’re all familiar with the staunch stone and sweet flavor of Cookies strains, but not nearly as many of us are acquainted with Kush strains out of Florida, such as Bubba and Triangle Kush — much less know their history. And like anything out of that state, things get weird quickly when you play with either of them.

If you like keeping your hands in the Cookies jar at dispensaries, this Gelato offspring lines up with that flavor profile, with fruity, sugary aspects that hang around before they’re washed out by an earthy blast of classic Kush. While the strain isn’t quite fruity enough on the tongue for a name deserving of Gushers, I get trying to stay on brand when breeding with Gelato or other Cookies offspring.

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Gushers aren’t exclusive to the rich and spoiled table in the school cafeteria, either. Ajoya, Doc’s Apothecary, Drift, Euflora, Rocky Road, Silver Stem Fine Cannabis, Redeye Releaf, RiverRock, Solace Meds, the Stone and Xclusive Cannabis all carry some form of the strain, and wholesale extractors and growers are sending it elsewhere around Colorado, too.

Looks: If it weren’t for the intense dark-green and purple colors, Gushers buds would look like pine cones, with dense oval and teardrop structures. But the strain’s purple tendencies, rusty pistils and heavy trichome coverage are too vibrant.

Smell: Somewhat of a collision between new and old scents of the cannabis world, with the initial sugary, candy-like aromas and creamy overtones followed by notes of wet soil, spicy herbs and cinnamon. The vanilla qualities of Kush strains and the creaminess of Cookies didn’t bridge that gap, as I’d hoped, but smelling a jar is still complex and enjoyable.

Flavor: It really depends on the cut, with some more sweet and creamy, and others more dank, earthy and spicy. I prefer something in between, like sweet grape and berry flavors followed by spicy vanilla and dirty pine.

Effects: Not quite a one-hit knockout, but euphoric and sedating nonetheless. The quick bliss of Gushers would make me ignore a house fire, relaxing me from my neck to my ankles. But that bliss soon turns into pure sloth and gluttony, so consider yourself warned. Medical patients have used the strain to treat pain, sleeping and eating disorders, headaches and stress, among other ailments.

Home grower’s take: “Have some friends in Sacramento who like this one a lot. Don’t know how he was able to get ahold of it, because I haven’t found seeds anywhere. Sometimes an employee in the grow can sneak out a cut of the plant and turn it into something. Sometimes it’s just all bullshit. The stuff I’ve had at the store and what my buddy grows [both] get potent and thick, though. Good to look at.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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CDC: Youth Pot Use Dropped in States After Legalization, Including Colorado

According to a recently published study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youth marijuana use decreased in the nation’s first three states to legalize recreational pot.

The CDC study, released October 4, reports that marijuana use among children in sixth to tenth grade residing in King County, Washington — the state’s most populated county and home to the Seattle metro area — actually dropped from 2012 to 2016. Further, the CDC study reported that youth marijuana use in Colorado and Oregon followed the same trend. All three states legalized recreational marijuana sales by 2015.

Two possible reasons cited by the CDC for the decline or absence of youth marijuana use were the possibility of the plant losing its novelty appeal, as well as the reduction of the illicit market in states with regulated sales.

However, it’s important to note that the study’s authors say that legalization’s effects “might be delayed,” and that the time frame of the study didn’t occur during “the more recent surge in e-cigarette use by youth and the use of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) within electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) devices.”

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Dr. Ashley Brooks-Russell serves as project director for the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, a bi-annual study from the state Department of Public Health and Environment that monitors youth drug use. According to Brooks-Russell, there isn’t a clear explanation as to why Colorado hasn’t seen a rise in youth marijuana use since retail pot was legalized. However, she does believe that more protective parenting with regard to marijuana and drug use has increased.

“We’re in an age of protective parenting, where adolescence is being extended into adulthood,” she says. “It’s being protected longer, and parents are learning to become more aware of their kids’ activities.”

The CDPHE has been trying to push Colorado parents toward a more engaging role in their kids’ social lives and potential peer pressures, according to CDPHE marijuana communications specialist Tara Dunn, who says kids who feel like they can talk to their parents or another trusted adult about substance use are less likely to use marijuana.

“Parents play an important role in preventing youth marijuana use,” she says. “Educating kids about marijuana early and keeping that conversation going is really important.”

And that conversation doesn’t really end as kids grow up. Kids are always changing interests and friend groups, Dunn adds, so it’s important for parents to be aware of social and stress factors in their kids’ lives, and continue maintaining an engaged role.

Brooks-Russell also advocates for “parental monitoring,” and says parents should always work to improve communication with their kids. Setting clear family expectations and knowing a child’s friend circle helps parents stay aware of what environment their kids are in outside of the house, she says.

“Parents need to have a conversation and make it clear what their expectations are,” she says. “It’s important to help their kids avoid situations that might cause drug use, such as not knowing who their kids hang out with or leaving their kids home alone.”

According to a 2018 survey from Healthy Kids Colorado, kids who know their parents disapprove of underage marijuana use are 72 percent less likely to start using, while kids who have other trusted adults they can talk to about their problems are 30 percent less likely to try marijuana. School performance can also be a factor in youth marijuana use, according to to the survey, as 28 percent of students who receive affirmation for their work are less likely to use marijuana.

“Kids who don’t feel connected or feel good in school may affiliate with other teens who use drugs,” Brooks-Russell explains. “And drug use is affiliated with poor school performance.”

For parents who may not be sure about how to talk to their kids about marijuana, Colorado has several statewide campaigns that teach both parents and kids about the effects of marijuana use. The CDPHE currently funds five community organizations that serve eleven counties to teach adults about youth marijuana use, while websites such as responsibilitygrowshere.com can be online sources for parents to learn more about youth marijuana use.

“Educating yourself is important,” Dunn says. “It helps you, and also helps your kids in the long run.”


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Stricter Rules Loom Over THC Vape Products in Colorado

The recent outbreak of lung illnesses connected to THC vaporization products is pushing the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division to implement new regulations that could include the prohibition of certain vaping additives in the regulated marketplace.

New rules banning the production and sale of cannabis vape products containing polyethylene glycol (PEG), vitamin E acetate and medium chain triglycerides (MCT oil) were proposed by the MED on October 7, according to the agency, with the proposed rules up for public discussion on Tuesday, October 15.

The proposed regulations also include additional labeling requirements for concentrates or products intended to be inhaled through a vaporizer or metered dose inhaler, according to MED rule-making documents, mandating that vaping additives be listed on the label, which would also be required to include the statement “Not approved by the FDA.”

Although most members of the pot industry expect the ban to be approved, MED spokesperson Shannon Gray notes, “These are proposed rules, which are not in effect until adopted and signed by the State Licensing Authority.”

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After weeks of reports of lung illnesses suffered by consumers of nicotine and THC oil vaping products, public health officials face more pressure to react — but a definitive cause of the problems hasn’t been identified. On Friday, October 11, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Deputy Director Anne Schuchat announced that 1,299 cases across the country, 26 of them ending in death, have been linked to vaping since the outbreak began, but health officials continue to look for exactly which chemicals or devices are leading to the health issues.

Most of the deaths and hospital visits are linked to THC vaping products obtained on the black market, made with the additives in the MED’s crosshairs as well as toxic pesticides and other harmful chemicals. As of October 2, nine reported hospitalizations in Colorado have been linked to vaping, with some patients reporting THC use and others citing nicotine. While the vast majority of hospitalizations for THC products have been linked to black-market cartridges with traces of harmful pesticides and additives, at least one death was reportedly connected to a legal product purchased from a dispensary in Oregon.

The chemicals banned by the MED haven’t been explicitly fingered as the culprits, but some cannabis business owners and health officials aren’t waiting until they are. In late September, Medicine Man dispensaries announced that its stores would no longer sell pre-filled vape cartridges containing vitamin E or PEG. The dispensary chain’s parent company, Medicine Man Technologies, was a leading force pushing the MED’s proposed ban.

“That’s just a start. It’s a good start, but they should also ban propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin,” says MMT chemistry director Dr. Tyrell Towle. “They’re not necessary to be used with cannabis for vaporization. You can create products for vaporization that don’t have these additives.”

According to Towle, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s cannabis science and policy work group — which comprises public health officials and industry stakeholders — had been trying to define potentially dangerous vaping additives and ingredients over a year ago, but “it wasn’t as pressing at the time, and there was a lot of pushback from industry members who still used some of those ingredients,” he notes.

“We can always bring them back if we can get the research funding and do eventually find out these are safe, although I doubt they are,” Towle adds.

The proposed vaping restrictions are part of a much larger set of new regulations that have been part of MED rulemaking throughout the summer and fall, including requirements for social consumption business licenses and dispensary delivery services. 


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Colorado Marijuana Sales Continued Hot Streak in August

Colorado marijuana sales continued their hot streak in August, according to the state Department of Revenue, reaching the highest monthly total ever.

Medical and recreational dispensaries accounted for over $ 173.2 million in sales in August, DOR data shows. That number is easily the highest for monthly sales since recreational pot stores opened in January 2014, passing July 2019’s previous high mark (approximately $ 166.3 million) by about 4 percent. This is the third straight month that dispensary sales have broken Colorado’s monthly record.

Recreational sales on their own also set another record, hitting nearly $ 141.87 million in August. Medical sales, while still hovering in the $ 30 million range, saw a slight bump, increasing just under $ 1 million from the previous month to hit $ 31.3 million.

August is one of three months in 2019 to have five Fridays and five Saturdays on the calendar, and weekends are extremely important to dispensary sales, according to marijuana-industry sales trackers. With cooler weather and fewer weekend days in September, don’t be surprised if the next monthly sales figure drops.

Through the first eight months of 2019, Colorado has already seen over $ 1.15 billion in dispensary sales, and it’s on a clear path to breaking last year’s overall sales of $ 1.55 billion.

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Colorado Marijuana Sales Continued Hot Streak in August (2)EXPAND

Colorado Department of Revenue


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Chem De La Chem

Once you reach a certain level of regular cannabis consumption, your tolerance doesn’t always allow your body to react to strains as sensitively as less frequent users might. So a hit of Super Lemon Haze won’t make my mind race like it once did, nor does a small bowl of Banana Kush knock me out with the same efficiency. I can still experience the intended effects from particular strains, though I usually have to consume more.

But any little bite of Chemdog will shoot up my spine and zap my brain no matter how big my tolerance and ego get. Whatever it is about Chemdog and the family of chemical-smelling, brain-dicking strains that it has produced over the years, my mind sure can’t handle them.

Such an unproductive bliss isn’t as welcome as it once was now that I have more big-boy responsibilities, but it’s certainly fun for a night or a solo Saturday morning full of cartoons. So when I came across Chem De La Chem, I prepared myself for a session with the head of the class — the Chem of the crop, if you will — and the strain’s forest-inspired funk, gasoline influence and halfwit high didn’t disappoint. Sessions with Chem De La Chem consistently produced a short-lived energy with a long-lasting euphoria, leaving me incapable of giving a shit about answering emails and texts or taking the trash to the curb. Such a vacation from life can be detrimental if taken all the time, but every once in a while, it enables helpful self-help retreats at home over the weekend.

Chem De La Chem hasn’t risen to the top of Denver’s pot hierarchy yet, but a lineage of Chemdog, a northeastern classic, and I-95, a strain named after the East Coast’s main interstate highway, points to roots at the far end of the country. We’ve seen the strain around town at the Giving Tree of Denver, Good Chemistry, Kind Love, Lightshade and Seed & Smith, with wholesale flower further distributed by Willie’s Reserve, and concentrate made by Green Dot Labs. My favorites so far have come from Kind Love and Green Dot, both of which might as well have had gas fumes rising from their bottles.

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Looks: Chem De La Chem typically grows chunky, oblong-shaped buds made up of spiky, dense calyxes. Those buds range from bright green to wintergreen, with above-average trichome coverage.

Smell: Like twisting a lime over an old carpet in a forest cabin and shoving your nose in it. Chem De La Chem is a great balance of Chemdog and OG qualities, with dank, earthy whiffs of sandalwood and pine leaves layered with funky, sour notes of rubber and gas.

Flavor: Expect a more piney, floral taste than the traditional gasoline flavor of Chemdog, but the classic chemical taste undoubtedly makes an appearance. Those earthy, fuel-like flavors are covered in subtle, spicy notes of wood.

Effects: The powerful, disorienting head high also leaks into the body, calming anxious limbs and, in my case, relaxing the stomach to the point of insatiability. I don’t recommend any important social interactions or complex chores after a session, but Chem De La Chem is a prime candidate for anyone seeking relaxation or stress relief.

Home grower’s take: “That Triangle Kush influence in I-95 is likely behind that musty OG scent, but Chem De La Chem smells like straight fuel in the grow. Took about eight or nine weeks to cut down once it started blooming, I think, but I did have to grow this one from seed. Not sure if it’s available in clones out there, but it’s worth a try if you find it. Those Chem-y flavors and the happy head high are worth the time; I don’t care what the yield is.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Tang Tang

“Tang” is one of the more difficult flavor concepts for me to grasp. Is it sweet? Savory? Sour? A mix of all three? Calling something “tangy” at a family dinner table will often lead to an argument from someone who thinks tangy and tart are the same thing, thanks to powdered-drink-pushing chimpanzees. In actuality, tang is supposed be slightly sour while adding another fresh or zesty characteristic, as with plain yogurt, sourdough bread or certain tomato sauces.

Tangy cannabis strains are even harder to pinpoint, because the trait doesn’t really exist in most outside of Cannalope Haze and some peach- and apricot-leaning strains. Sour flavors in pot usually come from terpenes found in citrus fruits, which are clearly more sour than tangy — but when matched with light pine, herbal or floral notes, the tang is there.

Tang Tang (also known as Tropical Tang and just Tang) takes sweet, dank and savory notes of skunk and ripe peaches and pits them against a zesty, citrus-laden sourness, like a bottle of homemade barbecue sauce. The strain’s rare flavor and even rarer rush of energy have given Tang Tang somewhat of a cult following, with a high known for daytime euphoria and focused productivity. But to gain a cult following, there needs to be factor of under-estimation or low distribution. In my opinion, Tang Tang has to fight both.

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A phenotype of Blue Sonja, Tang Tang has deep roots that stretch back to Blueberry and Grapefruit strains, and even further back to Afghani and Thai landraces. The strain’s genetics are reportedly around 90 percent sativa, and the high is perfect for the outdoor or active user — but Tang Tang’s yield is mediocre, and it takes several weeks longer than most strains to fully bloom. Those qualities are so ugly to commercial growers that two of Tang Tang’s children, Mob Boss and Pootie Tang, eclipsed it in popularity in Colorado years ago. However, you can still find Tang Tang around town intermittently.

Looks: Tang Tang is labeled a 90 percent sativa, and its buds fit that mold, with slender, open calyxes that look like a bunch of skunky, delicious blobs. That daytime reputation is made stronger by the strain’s bright-green color.

Smell: Tang Tang’s sweet smell of apricots, citrus and pine needles is rounded out with a heavy skunk aroma, giving it that “tangy” smell, like a salad with over-ripened fruit and heavy dressing.

Flavor: This is where you learn how rare Tang Tang’s flavor profile really is, as those tart, refreshing flavors stay wound tight instead of separating into layers, as happens with most citrus-heavy strains.

Effects: Treat Tang Tang like coffee that makes you hungry instead of wanting to poop: A little is extremely blissful and productive, but too much is disorienting, and your wit drains by the second. I use it for stress, slight anxiety, neck pain and a touchy stomach.

Home grower’s take: “She’s a pretty good strain for fall or winter if you’re growing indoors, because I remember my Tropical Tang doing very well despite about 5 degrees of temperature fluctuation at night or in the morning. That will usually fuck with a strain, but she kept pushing. Those last two or three weeks seemed like they took forever, though. It’s like the buds got to 90 percent complete within six weeks, then took another three or four to finish that last 10 percent. For an average yield, that’s a lot of time.”

Commercial grower’s take: “You might not see Tang around stores as much as you once did, but you’ll definitely see traces of it. Mob Boss has been a huge strain in Denver for a couple years now, and that’s a Tang hybrid. So is Ultra Sonja and Pootie Tang, I believe. They’re all just more friendly for profitability, and the high is similar.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Mendo Breath

Everybody has their own tells when they’re high. For most people, it’s the red eyes, giggles or slow reaction time, but my giveaway has always been weed breath. Brushing teeth, drinking soda, chewing gum — none of them work as fast as they should, and that’s tripped me up plenty of times during conversations and other face-to-face encounters.

So a strain like Mendo Breath, known for heavy relaxation and cottonmouth, wasn’t going to put me in any sticky situation that I don’t already routinely find myself in. In fact, trial runs with Mendo Breath’s daughters, Cactus Breath and Garlic Breath, made me exhale no more fire than usual, so I felt more than ready to take on the parent.

Mendo Breath is a child of OGKushBreath and Mendo Purps, an older hybrid with Trainwreck and White Widow genetics. The potent nighttime strain has a similar lineage to that of Girl Scout Cookies, with a sweet Durban Poison influence in its background. Unlike Cookies strains, however, Mendo Breath is quite zesty, with a layer of citrus, and leaves no question about what time of day it should be consumed. Some cuts of Mendo Breath carry hints of vanilla, chocolate or caramel — making the Cookies comparisons more sensible — but I usually pick up stronger suggestions of orange, citrus zest and wet pine needles. The flavor is fresh and enjoyable, and sure to out me the next time I try to sneak in a toke before sleeping over at my girlfriend’s.

Mendo Breath is still gaining strength in Colorado dispensaries as it makes its way east from California. We’ve spotted it at Ajoya, A Cut Above, Bonfire Cannabis and Kind Love, but we hear it’s likely sold elsewhere in concentrate form, too.

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Looks: Typically cone- and football-shaped, Mendo Breath’s nugs tend to lean on the slender side but can have dense calyxes that carry more weight than advertised. The strain’s lime-green color, brightened by a broad coat of trichomes, contrasts beautifully against violet spots and occasional apricot pistils.

Smell: Mendo Breath’s sweet, zesty notes give off a sugar-and-cinnamon vibe, with strong hints of citrus and a skunky, herbal back end. The spicy, sugary aroma can smell like a wet, dank tub of French vanilla ice cream before the floral, herbal notes take over.

Flavor: Those skunky, floral characteristics combine for an earthy, skunky OG flavor that drowns out most of the sweetness that your nose picks up, though some citrus and vanilla notes will stick to the sides of your tongue if you look for them.

Effects: Strains affect everyone differently, but Mendo Breath’s calming properties are felt almost across the board. Initial euphoria is quickly kicked to the curb by munchies, yawns and an insatiable need to stretch on the couch in front of the TV. The potent high has been used to treat eating and sleeping disorders, pain, headaches and stress, among other ailments.

Home grower’s take: “Popped this from a seed bag when I was testing out GMO, Tropsanto and some other chemical-y, spicy strains. Pretty easy in the grow: didn’t stretch a ton, responded well to topping, and I don’t remember any mold issues. The yield was just okay, though. Would do it again for the rosin and short flowering time either way, because it had a good, stiff high.”

Commercial grower’s take: “Not the largest yield compared to strains with similar genetics or flavors, but Mendo Breath has been spreading east from California for a couple years, and it’s a mother strain to a few popular strains out there right now, like Garlic Breath and Hammerhead. The amount of trichomes it produces, and the way those trichomes are shaped, makes for some healthy extraction, though, so it could be why you see a lot of Mendo Breath hash out there.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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Colorado Weed Prices Keep Fluctuating in 2019

After over a year of free-falling, marijuana prices are on the rise in Colorado, according to the state Department of Revenue. But several marijuana producers say those prices could be even higher than the state estimates.

According to the latest DOR estimates, wholesale marijuana flower is currently about $ 1,000 per pound, increasing by 17.5 percent from July to September, with trim, flower and whole plant matter allocated for extraction all rising in cost, as well. However, wholesale marijuana growers and dispensary general managers are telling us that wholesale flower prices are actually closer or above $ 1,300, and have been steadily rising all year.

According to the state’s estimates, prices are still getting much higher. In October 2018, a pound of flower was less than $ 760, past DOR figures show, or 24 percent lower than it is now. These rising wholesale prices have led to customers paying more for flower and concentrate at dispensaries, so don’t be surprised if those $ 15 eighths are now $ 20.

Why the increased costs? Industry sources we’ve talked to point to a number of reasons, including rising microbial issues in commercial grows, major suppliers limiting output, and new regulations that have changed how dispensaries stock their shelves — all of which, if true, could lead to supply shortages.

There have been reported supply shortages across the state. Dispensary general managers have been calling wholesale producers around the clock, worried their dispensary’s internal cultivations won’t supply enough to meet demand. 

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Seasons can also impact marijuana supply fluctuation. Although largely grown indoors, commercial pot is still a seasonal commodity, as a large chunk of flower and plant material designated for extraction come from outdoor growing operations. Because outdoor harvests only happen once a year, the supply traditionally dries up toward the end of summer and is replenished in October and November.

“You could get a pound for about $ 700 eight months ago,” one dispensary manager says. “I suspect that prices will drop greatly once the outdoor harvest starts coming in around October.”

If prices are still high around Christmas, this might be more than a phase.


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Colorado Reviews New Social Equity Marijuana Business Licenses

New marijuana business licenses reserved for low-income demographics are set to launch in Colorado in 2020, but questions remain about who should receive these licenses and how they should be regulated.

Created by Senate Bill 224, a 2019 law that overhauls the state’s medical and recreational marijuana regulations, the new licenses are intended to add more diversity to Colorado’s cannabis space while providing opportunity to entrepreneurs who don’t have traditional training or funding outlets. Also known as micro licenses, the new permits would require the new businesses to use the facilities of established pot companies as they research and create their own cannabis products.

Colorado cannabis regulators and industry members began addressing the upcoming accelerator licenses during a state Marijuana Enforcement Division stakeholder meeting Friday, September 13. But instead of the usual roundtable discussion, the group of cannabis organization leaders, business owners and regulators broke into working groups to discuss issues such as how long the agreements should last between the accelerator and endorsing businesses, how the state could incentivize potential endorsers, and what criteria should qualify the new licensees.

“People from around the world look to us as an example on how to do things right,” MED director Jim Burack said during the meeting. “What exactly is this relationship between endorser and accelerator? How do we ensure this business relationship is mutually beneficial?”

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Per the new law, applicants would have to be from or living in low-income areas (identified by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade) for at least five of the past ten years, but could operate outside of the community once the license is issued. The licenses would allow for cultivation, extraction and infused-product manufacturing opportunities, but not dispensary operations.

The new licenses are intended to help spur minority participation in the industry, but skin color or gender won’t necessarily define who receives a license, insists Shawn Coleman, a cannabis lobbyist who helped write the language creating the new licenses. Victims of the War on Drugs will, however, receive serious consideration.

“If you’re white and you grew up in a trailer and your dad went to jail for ten years for selling meth, I can see why you’d think you’d be fit for this,” he said. “This isn’t exclusive to any certain group.”

MED deputy director Dominique Mendiola leads one of four discussion groups during a stakeholder meeting September 13.

MED deputy director Dominique Mendiola leads one of four discussion groups during a stakeholder meeting September 13.

Thomas Mitchell

Deciding who qualifies for an accelerator permit is just one of many questions the MED has to figure out before 2020. The relationship between the new licensee and endorsing business — which includes privacy and liability agreements, potential equity shares and royalties, equipment use and more — is still up in the air.

Connor Lux, founder of cannabis event and co-working space Cultivated Synergy, said collaboration during the early years of legal cannabis led to stolen ideas, techniques and technology in an industry in which securing copyrights or patents is difficult. “Sharing [intellectual property] caused huge issues for some people right off the bat, from them not protecting their IP,” he explained.

It’s not just the micro-licensee who’d be at risk, according to several cannabis business owners who are considering becoming hosts to new potrenepeurs. “Let’s say there’s mold or yeast left over [in shared equipment] that affects an accelerator’s product. How do we handle that?” asked Allison Robinette, an assistant state attorney general who specializes in Colorado revenue and utilities.

Kayvan Khalatbari, a boardmember of the Minority Cannabis Business Association and co-founder of cannabis consulting firm Denver Relief, suggested that shared facilities adopt similar rules to commissary kitchens, where multiple food producers use the same facility at different times.

The new law already requires MED approval of any new micro licenses, but Khalatbari suggested the MED monitor the micro license relationships.

“If I’m an endorsement holder, I don’t want to get sued because someone used my equipment incorrectly…. Someone should be available to manage these relationships,” he said, adding that Colorado’s seed-to-sale tracking technology mandated by the MED would help show missteps.

Perhaps the most important challenge to the new license’s success rate is getting established cannabis companies to participate. Suggestions to entice them included reducing licensing fees, launching certain excise-tax credits and giving priority designation for licensing transfers and updates. However, the larger potential endorsers who are already set financially would likely want the accolades the most, according to Andrew Livingston, director of economics and research for cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg.

“For some of the bigger businesses, [decreased] license fees won’t be as big of an impact,” he said, explaining that some sort of good-actor seal of approval could help participants further connect with their communities as well as their chances of earning licenses in other states with legal pot industries.

The final rulemaking hearings will take place through September 20. According to the bill’s drafters and several stakeholders at the meeting, further legislation to update the license program and address the finer details is likely.


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Garlic Breath

Most words used to describe cannabis smells are terms that only a pothead would love. Generally, people don’t want to hear “skunky,” “diesel” and “dank” associated with their food, drinks or even tobacco. But hand over a nug that smells like a Gerber baby dump wrapped in burnt rubber, and stoners freak out.

Finding beauty in musty flavors isn’t new for cannabis lovers, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to see Garlic strains catapult in popularity. Unlike gasoline and a skunk’s butt juice, garlic actually has a place in my kitchen. And not only do Garlic Bud, Garlic Cookies and GMO Cookies carry a rare, zesty funk, but their potency is damn near lethal — especially once the Cookies genetics got involved. Garlic Breath, a take on the Garlic craze from Thug Pug Genetics, carries all of those qualities and ramps them up like a spicy BAM! from Emeril Lagasse circa 1998.

The mix of GMO and a Mendo Breath phenotype is a chip off the old block, and will make even the most ardent tokers feel like Spicoli during a pop quiz. Dispensaries label Garlic Breath a nighttime strain because it has sedating potential, but also because it’s so fucking strong that you won’t want to leave the safe confines of your house after eclipsing a couple of hits. Don’t feel bad if you end up breathing out of your mouth often; it’s a common side effect.

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Although much harder to find than it used to be, a Colorado spin on Garlic Breath from Cannaventure Seeds could still be lurking out there. The Cañon City breeder used Hogsbreath and Chemdog D to create a zesty, herbal nighttime strain very similar to the GMO version, but this one takes a couple of weeks longer to bloom and doesn’t have the same potent reputation — not that everyone wants their strain to have a THC percentage in the high 20s, anyway.

We’ve spotted Garlic Breath at the Clinic, Good Chemistry, Groundswell, Higher Grade, the Joint and Peak, but the strain’s presence at dispensaries that source their buds from wholesale providers shows that its likely available elsewhere. Our favorite cuts have come from Good Chemistry and the Joint, both of which carry versions that push the boundary of potent highs from straight flower. Beware of blunts and high-temp vaporizers, or you’ll be breathing fire instead of Garlic fumes.

Looks: Dense and bright, with oval- and fist-shaped buds, Garlic Breath has a potency that’s very much implied through its looks. Compact calyxes, heavy trichome production and limited pistils are all expected from the strain, giving the bright-green color of the buds a glow-in-the-dark feel.

Smell: Although not as pungent as a freshly smashed clove, Garlic Breath’s combination of skunky, herbal and peppery aromas still smells like wet, dank garlic. The garlic funk is memorable, but not overpowering like the room-filling stank of a Diesel or OG-leaning strain.

Flavor: Garlic Breath’s flavor is more subtle than its smell, but it does carry some herbal, floral notes, with a buttery, peppery back end. Expect more savory than sweet, but you’ll still have a heavy case of weed — not garlic — breath after a bowl.

Effects: Garlic Breath’s high isn’t always sedating, but it can be heavy and disorienting, attacking peripheral vision and enabling distractions at every turn. Light hits of the strain are more euphoric, reliving stress and kick-starting your appetite while relaxing your limbs. Medical users have tried the strain for chronic pain, headaches, and eating and sleeping disorders.

Home grower’s take: “This will stretch if you’re not careful. Root it deep before the flowering starts. She’ll produce some beautiful top nugs, and you can replicate it further if you trim it near-bare and stay diligent. Great for strong highs or the rosin press, because, man, does she push out the resin.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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Why Colorado Tokers Love…Randy Newman?

Without getting into specifics, let’s just say a certain R&B singer’s gross sexual history has caused me to look for a new go-to karaoke song. Although a few Queen classics initially seemed like fun choices, I quickly realized that I was foolish to think I could win a room trying to impersonate Freddie Mercury. It seemed like my once-every-six-months career was over.

Then I discovered Randy Newman.

If we’re being factual, I’ve actually known about Randy Newman ever since Toy Story, but he really left-foot-right-footed himself into my heart after a Family Guy episode featured his goofy-ass voice. The deep, dopey aspect of it seemed to fit me, for some reason, and I’ve been a star in dive bars ever since. (Not really, but it’s fun to sing “Short People” when you’re drunk.) So when I came across a funky-smelling strain named after Randy Newman, it seemed like a message from the stoner-culture gods. That it smelled like a spread of fruit and expensive cheese didn’t hurt, either.

A rare strain at the moment, Randy Newman can be found at one dispensary we know of, L’Eagle, where budtenders call it a “mystery indica.” We’ve heard rumors of some OG Kush mixed in there, but Randy Newman’s bright smell and fruity, cheesy flavor give off more of a U.K. Cheese vibe. Anyone who’s tried Good Chemistry’s Ingrid should be familiar with a strain like Randy Newman, both in flavor and effects.

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Randy Newman is still riding high off an early hit, but the jury is out on the strain’s staying power, considering its rarity and lack of backstory. There’s a good chance that it’s just a phenotype of something that came out different than expected, and the breeders slapped a funny name on it. If you keep seeing Randy Newman down the line and elsewhere, then you know you have a real strain. And after enjoying both the strain’s hors d’oeuvre flavor and the real Randy Newman’s list of unintentionally hilarious songs, I sure hope it isn’t a one-hit wonder.

Looks: Although labeled an indica, Randy Newman is tall and gangly, with light, fluffy buds and a bright-green color. The heavy pistil coverage and light trichome presence can get out of hand, reminding you more of a teenage basketball player’s armpit than cannabis. Lucky for us, the smell is much more refreshing.

Smell: Like a charcuterie plate, without the cured meats. In true Randy Newman fashion, the strain smells cheesy as hell, with sweet notes of berries and a gust of floral, grassy scents that swell up at the bottom of your nostrils toward the end.

Flavor: Although Randy Newman starts getting grassy after you smell it too long, the flavor maintains the cheesy, fruity notes advertised by the aroma. For having such soft, light calyxes, the flavor can really pack a punch, reminding me of white crumbly cheese and slightly unripened strawberries.

Effects: Instantly calming to the point of pulling my eyes to the back of my skull, Randy Newman feels more like listening to Barry White than to “You Got a Friend in Me.” That relaxation isn’t totally debilitating, though, allowing me to finish a few tasks or organize my day before the body melt hits an hour or so down the road.

Commercial grower’s take: “I’ve heard it’s a mix of OG-type strains, but I don’t get much of those earthy and sock-like smells from it — much more fruit and cheese. The high is pretty close to an OG, though, not that that really means anything. Gun to my head, I’d say it has some Cheese genetics in there or is a one-off cut of something — but thank God I don’t.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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Medicine Man Technologies Buys Eight Colorado Dispensaries in Two Days

Starbuds, one of Colorado’s largest dispensary chains, has agreed to sell a handful of stores to a name that’s becoming increasingly common in cannabis-industry acquisition news: Medicine Man Technologies.

The deal between the two parties, announced September 3, has Starbuds selling five stores in Louisville, Longmont, Pueblo, Niwot and Commerce City to the cannabis business conglomerate for just over $ 31 million in cash and Medicine Man Technology stock shares.

But the news doesn’t end there. Today, September 4, Medicine Man Technologies announced it has agreed to buy Colorado Harvest Company, a chain of three dispensaries in Denver and Aurora, for $ 12.5 million in cash and stock.

That’s eight dispensaries in two days and ten different companies in three months, all purchased by Medicine Man Technologies.

The company’s spending spree started after the Colorado Legislature passed a bill this past session allowing publicly traded businesses, such as Medicine Man Technologies, to hold ownership stakes in marijuana companies. The new law doesn’t go into effect until November, though, so the deals announced thus far are still binding agreements and not yet official.

According to Medicine Man Technologies, the founders of its latest acquisitions — Starbuds’ Brian Ruden and Colorado Harvest Company’s Tim Cullen — will both join the new ownership group in executive positions. It’s unknown whether the dispensaries will transition to the Medicine Man dispensary brand, a chain of Colorado stores owned by Medicine Man Technologies CEO Andy Williams.

Colorado Harvest Company has three dispensaries in the metro area.EXPAND

Colorado Harvest Company has three dispensaries in the metro area.

Scott Lentz

Last year, Cullen spoke with Westword about the challenges of owning a federally illegal marijuana business and the lack of tax breaks that come with it; he even sold a dispensary license in 2018 to Starbuds (an Aurora location that wasn’t included in the Medicine Man deal) to help pay off a tax bill. As consolidation continues in the pot industry, Cullen chose Medicine Man Technologies as his landing spot.

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“Following the passage of this law, the time was never more right for us to join the outstanding team at Medicine Man Technologies, who is now free to invest in the industry, given the synergies involved. Their growing team of Colorado cannabis pioneers is very impressive, and we are happy to be aligned with their joint efforts, all soon to be under one roof,” Cullen says in a statement on the deal. “Furthermore, the management team at Medicine Man Technologies is incredibly accomplished, and they are executing successfully on their plan to bring financial discipline and a clear strategy in their efforts to build the region’s premier cannabis company. We are delighted to join them in this next leg of growth.”

Starbuds still owns six dispensaries in Colorado, with another in Denver on the way, as well as several more stores in Oklahoma, Maryland and Jamaica. But Ruden, who helped push the chain from a few storefronts in Colorado to over a dozen nationwide, will join the Medicine Man Technologies executive team.

“Brian and his team have built an enviable brand and a most successful operation recognized in the industry for its award-winning strains, for its high profitability, and for having the most successful customer loyalty program around,” Williams says in a statement. “We happily welcome them and these five locations into the Medicine Man Technologies family.”

In addition to these dispensaries, over the last three months Medicine Man Technologies has announced deals to acquire eight more marijuana businesses, including Colorado marijuana brands such as Dabble Extracts, Purplebee’s Extracts, Los Sueños Farms and a yet-to-be-named edibles manufacturer, as well as research and medical marijuana companies MedPharm Holdings and Colombian medical marijuana licensee Green Equity.


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Why Colorado Tokers Love Tahoe Alien

That Area 51 raid sure came out like a wet fart after all that. The event page’s creator now wants to throw a festival in a town near the restricted military base instead, surprising and exciting no one. So instead of stealing a dope-ass laser gun from the Man, I’ll just have to get high and watch Mars Attacks! or something. To up my desperate ante for Nevada alien action, I might even smoke a Tahoe Alien or two.

This mix of Alien Kush and Tahoe OG Kush has become a fixture for dispensaries and growers at home thanks to a reputation for high yields, which are rare for OG strains. But Tahoe Alien is more than just a garden star, carrying pungent pine and wood aromas as well as a high THC percentage. In some cases, Tahoe Alien can even attain decent CBD levels, making some commercial growers wonder if the strain was sent from above.

But if something as simple as chicken strips can be overcooked, then so can weed. Ham-handed growers use Tahoe Alien’s popularity to push suspect buds on consumers, so keep your eye out for imposters and poor takes on the strain. If grown correctly, Tahoe Alien can be beneficial for both user and grower, pumping out resin-coated buds and a relaxing high for the body and the mind.

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Although the federal government continues to refute these reports, we’ve heard of Tahoe Alien sightings at 1136 Yuma, Berkeley Dispensary, Best Colorado Cannabis, Buddy Boy, Cherry Peak Dispensary, Cross Genetics, Denver Kush Club, Doc’s Apothecary, High Level Health, Kind Love, LaConte’s, Lightshade, Lucy Sky, Pando, Potco and Rocky Road, among others, with a number of wholesale cultivations and extractors stocking stores with the strain, as well. My favorite cuts come from Kind Love and High Level Health, with both packing the pine flavor and heavy shrouds of resin. Viola Extracts and Yeti Farms do an otherwordly job of pulling that flavor and potency out of Tahoe Alien in their extracts, as well.

Looks: Bulbous, chunky and larger than most OG cuts, Tahoe Alien looks more like a hybrid than an indica, but its nugs still pack density. The strain’s lime-green color and moderate pistil coverage are usually overshadowed by a heavy layer of trichomes. If you don’t see a healthy coat on this strain, it wasn’t grown right.

Smell: Like a walk through a wet, dank forest. Expect thick whiffs of pine and wet bark up front, followed by a subtle sour skunkiness and sweet vanilla aromas. Those back-end notes can be hard to detect, though, as Tahoe Alien is dominated by the woods.

Flavor: The Kush and skunky parts come out more in the taste, becoming more of a partner with the woody, piney flavors instead of taking a back seat. The pungent, sweet and forest-y flavors are better enjoyed in a concentrate, in my opinion.

Effects: Used primarily in the afternoon and evening, Tahoe Alien is known as a pain and stress reliever in the cannabis community. I like to smoke mine after a long day or angst-filled Sunday before work starts again, as it helps calm my nerves and eases any anxious-stomach issues. I’ve also enjoyed Tahoe Alien before a provoking movie or other visual-oriented entertainment. Just don’t go overboard, or that relief can turn into paranoia.

Home grower’s take: “This likes to spread more than stretch, so be prepared to play with those branches a little bit. Other than that, though, Tahoe Alien is pretty easy for anyone who even sorta knows what they’re doing. Can’t find seeds of it, but clones aren’t very hard to buy if you know where to look. I’ve pulled it down in eight weeks, but will probably go nine next time and see if I can get more flavor out of it.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email marijuana@westword.com.


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