MMJ: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Acclaimed MMJ Doc Heather Moroso is creating new wellness center

Dr. Heather Moroso is not your average medical marijuana doc.

The eclectic and sometimes quirky neuropath doesn't just serve those needing licenses to get medicinal cannabis, she is also a holistic healer who brings empathy and alternative treatments to patients and has devoted her professional life to easing pain for underserved or marginalized members of society.

Weekly readers should be familiar with Moroso's practice on Speedway Boulevard near the University—she has won several "Best of" awards in these pages—but in the near future she hopes to reach a new population of patients as she creates a wellness center in South Tucson.

To that end, and despite the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy, Moroso is looking to expand her practice in a hopeful move she embarked upon right before the onset of the international health crisis.

Shortly before the coronavirus put most of society into a holding pattern, Moroso made an offer on the building on the corner of East 33rd Street and Fourth Avenue that housed Antonio's Bar, a historic tavern that was reportedly the last bar in a one-mile-square city that at one time had as many as 50 drinking establishments.

"I looked up and all of a sudden I was in escrow," Moroso says of the acquisition. "It's a great space and still has the original bar top: There are still wads of gum stuck underneath and cigarette burns and carvings on the top."

The building has a large, open and airy space where Moroso hopes to create a homeopathic clinic offering alternative care, from acupuncture to naturopathic consultation, massage and nutritional advice, to smoothies created in the building's large kitchen.

She also expects to offer a variety of yoga classes both inside and behind the building, where she envisions a ramada for classes, meals and public events.

"It's going to be a slow transition, but hopefully, we'll be able to offer services soon," she says. "We're about two months away from starting."

Moroso says it's a community effort she has embarked upon with an extensive support group, including her "cantankerous botanist" friend Aaron Chambers, who is helping plan the garden that will provide fresh food and medical plants—all plants edible and medicinal, southwest friendly and drought tolerant. Other friends will help redesign the interior and shepherd the kitchen through the commercial permit process.

For the time being and the foreseeable future, Moroso will continue to provide services for her patients in her offices at 548 East Speedway Blvd., where she has operated for the past four years.

Moroso originally came to Tucson from Seattle in 1992 to attend UA, earning a degree in ecology and environmental biology, and went on to achieve her Neuropathic Medicine Degree from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in 2002.

She has served the community for many years, treating and serving HIV/AIDS patients, a mission she embarked upon right out of school.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to the people that came before," Moroso says. "One woman I know went to more than 300 funerals for people who died of the disease. I've been to three. I can't imagine going to that many."

Moroso has volunteered for the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and was employed by El Rio/Special Immunology Associates from 2004-2009. She has served on the boards of Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network, Wingspan's Health & Wellness Advisory Board and the Pima County Ryan White HIV/AIDS Consortium Membership Committee. She currently serves on the board of the Southern Arizona Artists and Musicians Healthcare Alliance.

In 2007, she founded the nonprofit Positively Beautiful, an organization that helps HIV/AIDS patients with their self-esteem as their bodies succumb to the ravages of the disease.

"It's about self-image and not seeing the disease every time you look in the mirror," she says. "It's about empowerment."

As to the move and the life and practice Moroso has established in the Old Pueblo, she is grateful to be embraced by the community she loves to serve.

"I found my niche here and feel at home in South Tucson," she says. "I am lucky and humbled to be doing this work."