15 Years of Growth at Tamarack Cannabis

After launching in 2009 as a medical marijuana dispensary, Tamarack underwent a significant expansion following recreational legalization, growing its economic footprint to include two retail stores, multiple grow operations, and distributing its product to 11 Montana dispensaries

By Maggie Dresser
Tamarack Cannabis in Whitefish on June 20, 2024. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

When Tamarack Dispensary first launched in the Flathead Valley in 2009, its original owners set up shop in a one-room store providing medical marijuana to 50 patients. In the 15 years since Tamarack’s debut, Montana has updated or overhauled its marijuana laws five times; the industry has endured federal raids at greenhouses, seizures of grow operations and, in 2011, threats by state lawmakers to repeal the legalization of medicinal use altogether.

For Tamarack’s current owner, Erin Bolster, who started working as the dispensary’s bookkeeper and budtender in the early days of uncertainty before buying into the business a few years later, the unpredictability of those formative years helped create a stable foundation, as well as a sustainable business model that nurtured Tamarack’s growth trajectory.

And while that growth chart has spiked since Montana legalized marijuana for recreational use, Bolster says the transformation began taking root years ago.

By 2015, all of Tamarack’s original owners had gone, leaving Bolster and her husband in charge of the company. Sensing that the industry would continue to transform, they changed the name of their business to Tamarack Cannabis.

“We knew some day we wouldn’t just be a dispensary,” Bolster said.

In 2017, Bolster secured a location on U.S. Highway 93 between Kalispell and Whitefish after new laws allowed medical card holders to shop at multiple locations instead of having one provider, which allowed Tamarack to expand its customer base.

Then on New Year’s Day in 2022, Bolster was finally able to sell pot to non-medical card holding customers after Montana voters opted to legalize its recreational use and sale in 2020. The legalization multiplied Tamarack’s sales and by the end of the summer, Bolster opened a second location in downtown Whitefish.

The 3,000-square-foot retail store located on East 1st Street fits into the residential neighborhood with potted flowers on the front steps and glittered marijuana leaf decorations and house plant lining the interior perimeter. Traditional paraphernalia like bongs and pipes are sold in the shop along with devices like the Puffco Proxy, which is used for vaping heated cannabis concentrates, also known as “dabbing.”

Tamarack also hosts events on the spacious outdoor patio including chamber of commerce gatherings, city council luncheons and community art showcases.

Tamarack Cannabis in Whitefish on June 20, 2024. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

After 15 years in business, Tamarack now has two shops, two grow locations, a commercial kitchen and an extraction facility where staff make concentrates, edibles and drink mixes. The combined size of their operating spaces amount to more than 10,000 square feet.

“I think that’s what sets us apart – everything that Tamarack sells, as far as THC, is something we make, which really gives us control over quality,” Bolster said. “I like to be able to stand behind the products. We know they are made with good quality ingredients, made without harmful pesticides and made by people who are doing it correctly. They are all made with love. It’s all a labor of love.”

Bolster doesn’t plan to expand the retail side of the business, but Tamarack is growing the wholesale production and 11 dispensaries across the state now carry their products.

Tamarack sells a slew of different marijuana flower strains with names like Snow Ghost, Purple Kush and Motorbreath, but they also sell products including solventless hash, rosin, tinctures and gummies.

Last year, Tamarack launched a THC and CBD bitters tincture that can be added to beverages, and they also developed a water-soluble drink mix called the Inspo, which is named after the ski run on Big Mountain and comes in flavors like pink lemonade and fruit punch. The Inspo can be mixed with soda or water, which many customers use as an alcohol alternative.

While Bolster sees a wide range of customers, she says older demographics come into the store interested in topical products like the THC body butter salve, which can bring pain relief for ailments like arthritis.

“More and more people are learning about cannabis and accepting it,” Bolster said. “People are using it as an alternative for medicine and alcohol and other things. Covid was an interesting time for us because the bars were shut down and people were staying at home – people found that cannabis was a good thing during those times to help them relax and it grew the customer base. Now that it’s legal, a whole lot of people before were unable to break the law. I think as we sit on the cusp of federal legalization, there will be brand new customers out of that.”

Highly concentrated THC products on display at Tamarack Cannabis in Whitefish on June 20, 2024. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

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