La Mota’s attorney is taking a hiatus from her position as executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Association as the industry attempts to distance itself from the increasingly embattled chain.
OCA board president and interim executive director Hunter Neubauer tells WW that Amy Margolis decided to step back so as to avoid any “conflict of interest.” Margolis’ hiatus comes as the cannabis industry asks Oregon lawmakers to help clean up the industry with pending legislation.
Since WW broke the news last week that Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan was moonlighting as a consultant for a subsidiary of the company, the cannabis industry has tried to distance itself from La Mota, the second-largest dispensary chain in the state. Fagan resigned effective today because of the contract. Prior to the revelation of Fagan’s contract, La Mota faced significant legal and financial troubles as its CEO, Rosa Cazares, and owner, Aaron Mitchell, moved in the top circles of Democratic Party political influence.
Margolis says she looks “forward to being able to return as director and support the ongoing work of the association and the cannabis space as it moves through these challenging and unprecedented times. I also hope that everyone remembers that this industry faces unique and enormous economic and regulatory challenges, with almost no relief in sight.”
Last Thursday, the state’s most powerful cannabis industry group reprimanded La Mota in an open letter to Oregon lawmakers. That group, the Cannabis Industry Alliance of Oregon, said La Mota had shown a “flagrant disregard for state laws and fair business practices” and asked the Legislature to pass laws this session, such as stricter measures against companies that fail to pay state taxes, that would prevent La Mota from continuing the questionable business practices that accompanied its rapid growth.
Notably, the OCA did not sign the letter.
But one day later, the OCA sent its own letter to the Legislature. It contained only two sentences about La Mota. “We want to make it unequivocally clear that we do not condone this behavior,” the group wrote. “The board has voted to remove La Mota as a member of the OCA.”
Neubauer says Margolis had already stepped down when the guild sent the letter to lawmakers on Friday.
“In order to avoid any conflict of interest during this period, Amy has appropriately asked to take a hiatus as executive director,” Neubauer said in an email. “As the founder of the OCA in 2014, and longtime industry advocate and cheerleader, we are excited to have Amy return in the future.”
Shortly after WW began reporting on La Mota, but prior to publication of any findings, Margolis sent a letter to the newsroom March 3, warning that she and her clients would take immediate legal action if WW published any findings that could endanger her clients’ safety or emotional well-being.
“La Mota and its owners formally request that the Willamette Week immediately cease these types of inquiries and, under no circumstances, publish this type of information if already received. If the paper should continue, or any information is published that places my clients at any personal risk of injury, we will take immediate legal action,” Margolis wrote. “It is beyond reckless to even consider publishing this information.”
Since then, Margolis has decided to represent La Mota only in preexisting litigation. She signed on as one of the attorneys in a lawsuit filed against Cazares and Mitchell by the owners of a Northwest mansion the couple rented as recently as last year. The owners allege the pair refused to pay rent for eight months and severely damaged the home. (In court filings, the couple argues that the landlords refused to fix extensive damage in the home.) Margolis is also representing the couple in a lawsuit filed by the tax preparation firm hired to complete La Mota’s 2021 tax returns. That company alleges over $150,000 in unpaid bills.