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Gardiner's first-ever cannabis dispensary now open after long wait due to licensing struggles

Despite licensing challenges, the Smoking Bear was able to open in Gardiner this past summer.
Posted at 4:55 PM, Dec 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-06 13:25:01-05

GARDINER — The Smoking Bear is the first-ever cannabis dispensary to operate in Gardiner, Montana. Located just outside the federal lands of Yellowstone National Park, the owners are hoping to change Montana’s rhetoric on the use of cannabis.

"I’ve always felt that a dispensary would be a good addition to the community. I’ve seen some really good medicinal use in my adult life, and of course recreational use as well," says Stacy Joy, owner of The Smoking Bear.

She explains how after having to wait 18 months for a license, lawmakers threw a crimp in the business's plans, postponing new licensing even further.

"Anyone like myself, an entrepreneur who was ready to go and open a new dispensary, we were told it couldn’t happen for at least another two years," says Joy.

The Smoking Bear was able to open after partnering with local Bozeman dispensary Lazy Daze.

Despite state resistance, Joy says the Gardiner community was welcoming, even coming together to help her open after the unexpected death of her boyfriend and business partner, Justin Bell.

"I am a business owner in other ways in Gardiner and I think people know my intentions are good and I absolutely love this community," Joy says.

Despite being a relatively young community of rafters, Joy says the customer demographic isn’t what you’d expect.

"It is people in their 50s and 60s, they have aches and pains, they have trouble sleeping. Or it’s a novice opportunity for tourists who have never been in a dispensary before," she says.

Being a tourist town, dispensaries charge an additional resort tax on goods, contributing to the local economy. Joy hopes to find other ways to give back to the community, too.

"I’m anxious to see how The Smoking Bear can fit into our nonprofit community in town as well. I know it’s not going to be as welcome with all events, but we’ll find the niche where we are helpful and give back because I do feel like that’s very important for small towns," Joy says.

Despite recreational marijuana use being legalized in the state, use of it on federal lands and water is still prohibited.

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