HELENA – The embattled leader of a Missoula medical marijuana business on Friday denounced as a conspiracy a lawsuit alleging that he ordered hundreds of card applications to be falsified.
Three former employees of Montana Caregivers Network filed a wrongful-discharge lawsuit a day earlier in District Court in Missoula. It accused Jason Christ of using Montana Caregivers Network funds for personal expenses, driving a company van while smoking marijuana and other misconduct.
The employees filing a lawsuit make mention of a criminal investigation into the business. On Friday, the Missoula Police Department said it could not comment on ongoing investigations.
The Montana Caregivers Network provides traveling screening clinics and methods of arranging video conferences between physicians and patients seeking medical marijuana cards.
Christ is a medical marijuana patient who is often seen smoking the drug in public, most notably outside the state Capitol after testifying at recent legislative hearings on proposals to tighten regulation of medical marijuana.
Reached midday Friday, Christ told the Associated Press he had not yet read the lawsuit. He refused to address directly the individual charges made by the former employees.
“I run the largest medical marijuana entity in the state and I am very busy all day long,” Christ said. “It appears on the face that this is an attempt to create bad or negative publicity.”
Christ pointed out that the attorney for his former workers, Chris Lindsey, of Helena, has been involved with other medical marijuana businesses.
“He is a direct competitor with me, which means there is a big conflict of interest,” Christ said. “I believe this is a frivolous lawsuit intended for bad media so it appears I am incompetent when I go to speak to legislators.”
The lawsuit filed by Tiffany Klang, John Phillips and Nicole Harrington said Christ was verbally abusive to employees and created a hostile work environment that forced the three to quit their jobs on June 18. They are seeking back wages and punitive damages.
The lawsuit alleges that in January, Christ started requiring out-of-state physicians working with the Montana Caregivers Network to sign blank certifications for medical marijuana cards that would later be filled in by network staff after the doctors met with patients via video conferences.
The lawsuit alleges that in March, Christ ordered employees to take all pending and denied-patient applications and submit them to the state by filling out the pre-signed applications and saying the patients qualified with a “chronic pain” diagnosis, even if the patients hadn’t consulted with a doctor.
The plaintiffs said that in June, Christ ordered them to fill out and send to the state pre-signed certifications with the names of 84 people who had been rejected for a card after seeing physicians at Montana Caregiver Network events in Kalispell, Helena and Missoula. A copy of his e-mail directive was attached to the lawsuit.
The three quit the next day.
Lindsey said Friday he has represented a number of legal issues for medical marijuana patients and businesses and has no conflict of interest with Christ.