Medical marijuana: Mobile Doctors of America's Airstream aims to leave no MMJ patient behind

While most ganjapreneurs have been focused on dispensaries and grow facilities, Vincent Palazzotto stands out for focusing on the needs of struggling patients. He'd already helped to start the non-profit Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of the Rockies (MMAPR) to provide low-cost services for indigent patients. Now he's launched a new venture, Mobile Doctors of America (MDARX), to provide economical, freewheeling marijuana evaluations in a 31-foot-long 1968 Airstream.

MDARX, a for-profit venture, grew out of the desire of Palazzotto and his partner, John Commandari, to find a cheaper way to provide medical evaluations. Through MMAPR, the two had discovered that the overhead costs of doctors' offices were so high that no doctor they approached could afford to give away more than four free patient evaluations a month. So just as some modern-day physicians are cutting corners by returning to old-fashioned house calls, Palazzotto and Commandari realized they could fashion a new financial structure by getting rid of the doctor's office entirely. "If we do it mobile, we have a lower cost of ownership," says Palazzotto. "I can offer a lower price, because it has a lower operating cost."

That means regular patients can get doctor's evaluations at the Airstream for $99 if they have paperwork and $125 if they don't have records, while those who qualify as indigent through the Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP) or MMAPR's own evaluation program get 20 to 50 percent off the former price. On top of that, MDARX is committed to providing one free indigent-patient evaluation a day.

While Palazzotto isn't familiar with Denver's current food-truck explosion, MDARX will be using many of the same techniques, like Twitter, Facebook, RSS and text updates, to spread the word about its services and report on its current location. And like the snazzy food trucks lately gracing Civic Center, MDARX will be turning heads with its retrofitted, metallic Airstream.

"I am very attached to Americana," says Palazzotto. "Whether it be a Harley-Davidson motorcycle or an Airstream, fifty years ago, things were made a lot better."

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner