Jason Christ sues health department for not renewing his medical marijuana card

Jason Christ, the face of the explosive growth of the medical marijuana business in Montana, can no longer legally smoke the cannabis he so aggressively promoted.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services has yet to renew his medical marijuana card, which expired April 17.

Christ has sued.

Christ smokes medical marijuana to control the pain of Crohn’s disease, according to the complaint he filed this week in Missoula County District Court. Without his marijuana, his “pain levels have risen significantly,” he wrote in the suit, one of several he’s filed in District Court. He’s seeking $7,000 from DPHHS.

Christ became well-known for smoking marijuana in public places such as the Capitol lawn, and claimed last year in an interview with the Missoulian to have signed up 80 percent of Montana’s medical marijuana patients, who then stood at 23,000. Now, nearly 30,000 people have cards.

But even as the Montana Legislature cracks down on medical marijuana use in this state, Christ is expanding his business – to Arizona.

Christ sought, and received, permission in Missoula County District Court this week to travel there to tend to a new branch of CannabisCare, whose headquarters until recently were located at Orange and Front streets.

CannabisCare’s website advertises offices in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff.

CannabisCare neither grows nor dispenses marijuana; instead, it links would-be patients with doctors who can provide recommendations, either at traveling clinics or online teleclinics.

The Montana Board of Medical Examiners has forbidden teleclinics, but the CannabisCare website continues to advertise them, including online doctor visits via webcam Thursday and this coming Tuesday.

Jean Branscum, executive director of the Board of Medical Examiners, said the board cannot take action without a complaint.

“We don’t regulate the business, we regulate the people,” she said. The board has received seven complaints about medical marijuana businesses, she said, but declined to specify which ones.

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CannabisCare’s website also promises to post documents that people can use to sue the state of Montana over its new medical marijuana legislation. “The Montana State Constitution says that we can sue the (expletive) out of our government,” the site said.

Christ has increasingly become embroiled in a series of lawsuits and countersuits, filing actions against former employees and competitors for breach of contract and theft, even as his employees sued him for intolerable working conditions and, in one recent case, sought a protection from abuse order.

He also faces intimidation charges in connection with an August incident involving the Verizon store on South Reserve, in which he allegedly threatened to bomb the store because of poor service.

It’s because of those charges that Christ needed court permission to leave the state. (He was arrested in March after taking an Allegiant flight to Mesa, Ariz.) On Tuesday, Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul objected to Christ’s most recent travel request, saying he’d spoken with authorities in Arizona, who told him Christ had made threats there against Verizon.

But Christ’s attorney, Peter Lacny of the Datsopoulos, MacDonald and Lind law firm, countered that no charges were expected as a result of that complaint.

Meanwhile, Christ recently filed another lawsuit in Missoula County District Court, this one against Alltel, the company he turned to after “a horrible experience” with Verizon, according to the suit.

Alltel terminated his service after he “over-complained,” the suit said, adding that Alltel termed those complaints “threats.”

The suits seeks $154,000 from Alltel.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com or CopsAndCourts.com.

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