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MISSOULA — Three former employees of the Montana Caregivers Network have been ordered to stop operating a medical marijuana consulting business pending a hearing scheduled for Thursday.

District Judge Dusty Deschamps on Friday granted the restraining order sought by Jason Christ but refused his request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the former employees.

Montana Caregivers Network operated "cannabis caravans" that traveled to several Montana cities. In a single day, doctors would see hundreds of people seeking recommendations for medical marijuana cards.

Tiffany Klang, John Phillips and Nicole Harrington sued Christ in August alleging he falsified some applications for medical marijuana cards, used company funds for personal expenses and drove a company van while smoking marijuana. It also alleges Christ created a work environment so hostile that they were forced to quit on June 18.

The three then started 406 Alternative Care Consultants. Billings attorney Chris Lindsey says the business helps medical marijuana caregivers keep track of their plant numbers as well as other required paperwork.

Christ required employees to sign a nondisclosure agreement that applies in a 500-mile radius for five years from the date they leave Montana Caregivers, the Missoulian reported.

He said Monday that "every business has a right to protect their trade secrets."

Deschamps' restraining order applies to "any business engaged in the same business as Montana Caregivers Network within Missoula County" owned or run by Klang, Phillips or Harrington.

Lindsey said a hearing is scheduled Thursday during which he says he will explain the difference between his clients' business and the Montana Caregivers Network. He says 406 Alternative Care Consultants doesn't cater to patients, hire doctors or make recommendations.

In his response to the August lawsuit, Christ said working at the Montana Caregivers Network was far from stressful as the business focuses on peace and ending suffering.

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To reduce stress, he wrote, the firm provided fringe benefits like "massages during the workday, company meals, gift cards, yoga, meditation, free medicine and communal activities like hacky-sack."

Christ sought dismissal of the lawsuit, calling it "a hodgepodge of unsupported assertions, irrelevant platitudes and legalistic gibberish."

In rejecting Christ's request, Deschamps wrote, "the Court finds there are numerous allegations in the complaint that ... may have some merit in the eyes of a jury."

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