A story in this week’s issue of the Independent looks at Montana Pain Management (MPM), a medical marijuana clinic on Third Street with some 350 patients run by Rick Rosio. Clearly there’s a lot more to the story as the state feels its way around the nascent medical marijuana law—and there’s more to Rosio’s story, too.
A few of Rosio’s former employees make claims against Rosio's business practices, but none could be substantiated by the Indy. We do know that two former employees are now opening their own storefront clinic, Zoo Mountain Natural Care, at the corner of Orange and Front streets.
One of their charges—and something questioned by state medical marijuana advocates in our story—is that Rosio is driven more by turning a profit than ensuring his patients have safe access to their allotted six marijuana plants. A 2008 civil case in Park County may give credence to their claim. The case involved Rosio and his former business partner Dave Minnick (who couldn’t be reached for comment) and resulted in the two dissolving their Livingston-based business Caregivers Montana LLC. From a report in the Livingston Enterprise:
"Richard (Rosio) thinks there is a lot of money in this business," Minnick testified, "but there isn't."
Minnick's lawyer, Kevin Brown, asked Minnick, "Why?"
"Montana is a land of poverty," Minnick said. "We don't make a lot of money here in general. The patients have even less income, and have to pay as they can afford to."
As Rosio tell us, “You can’t have a mission without a margin.” But he says that margin is slight.
“We’re not making a ton of money, dude," he says. "I pay my bills, make sure my employees get paid, and make sure there’s medication for our patients, and that’s what it’s about. And I welcome, and I will work hand-in-hand and cooperate in, any type of effort to make this better for the people we serve. One hundred percent. I want you always to know that.”
Rosio says no patient has ever left MPM because they don’t have enough money for medicine.
MPM included, four medical marijuana businesses have applied for licenses in Missoula.
“We’re looking at rewriting our licensing ordinance to include this type of business and to better define it,” says Scott Paasch of the Missoula Finance Department.
The city appears to be adjusting to the new law, and Rosio thinks the public will follow.
“Two years from now you’ll be wondering what the controversy was,” he says.
But in the meantime, there are sure to be many more legal ambiguities to iron out. One is the issue of mailing medical marijuana. It’s not illegal under the state law, but it does violate carriers’ rules. Sources say they’ve seen caregivers mailing marijuana at FedEx in downtown Missoula. FedEx Office spokesperson Jenny Robertson tells us that while she can’t confirm incidents in Missoula, “We have had costumers request to ship it [in Montana], and we’ve had to turn them down.”