The Oregon Cannabis Association's board of directors voted unanimously to expel La Mota. The retail chain was at the heart of a scandal which cost one of Oregon's top officials their job.
Hunter Neubauer, the Board President, said that Executive Director Amy Margolis - a well-known cannabis lawyer who represents La Mota - was also temporarily leaving the OCA.
Amy asked for a break to avoid conflict of interest. Amy is a longtime cheerleader and industry advocate, as well as the founder of OCA. We are thrilled to see her return.
Neubauer stated that La Mota joined the OCA only a couple of months ago. He said that the removal by the board on Thursday was just one vote short of being unanimous. This action sets off an outright process.
In an open letter, the OCA stated that 'The Oregon Cannabis Association... felt it was important to respond to recent allegations made against La Mota’s business conduct'. We want to be clear that we don't condone such behavior.
La Mota is linked to the downfall of Secretary of State
La Mota, a group of cannabis industry professionals, was denounced by the Cannabis Industry Alliance of Oregon last week, following the revelations of Willamette Week about unpaid taxes, lawsuits involving unpaid vendor invoices, and attempts to influence an Oregon audit of cannabis regulation. La Mota wasn't a member of CIAO.
La Mota - the second-largest cannabis retailer in the state - had offered a $10,000 per month consulting contract to Shemia Fagan, Secretary of State. Fagan resigned a few days after the news broke.
The OCA has used its letter about La Mota as a way to promote a bill that will be introduced in the 2023 Legislature. This could limit the number of new cannabis licenses, by tying it to population. Oversupply and falling prices have caused a slump in demand and shaken a cannabis industry that is already grappling with tax, banking and other issues resulting from federal prohibition.
Rosa Cazares of La Mota, the co-owner who had been highly critical of Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, provided extensive input to Fagan's Office. The audit recommended that the state assist cannabis businesses in advance of possible national legalization, and to reduce regulations to avoid federal intervention.
Neubauer, for his part, described the OLCC a regulator with good intentions who had stepped up to help the industry at times, but not consistently.
Cannabis industry worth billions of dollars
He said that the problem was the lack of (initiatives) to support the industry. It takes too much time, and this has been the Achilles heel. The OLCC's main driver is clearly the alcohol side. But we must not forget cannabis, which is a multi-billion dollar industry.
He said that the OCA's goal was to turn a 'negative situation' into a 'positive one'.
Neubauer added that he believed Margolis, who had represented Oregrown in the past, would contribute to this effort.
The newspaper reported that Margolis sent a letter on behalf of La Mota to Willamette Week, warning it of legal action in the event of unspecified information being published which 'posed a real and physical danger to my client'.
Neubauer said Margolis was in a difficult position as she held two roles: legal counsel to a struggling company and executive of a trade group. Amy Margolis has worked with us hundreds of times in the cannabis industry and we would not be where we are today without her. Amy is an excellent resource for anyone looking for professional services. Everyone has the right to legal counsel.
Margolis defends her work as an lawyer when asked if she could be harmed by representing a cannabis company that is being criticized by the industry.
She said, via email, that she has represented hundreds of clients, if no more, in the cannabis industry over the years. She said: 'I started out as a criminal attorney for clients facing prosecution, and I now represent business owners and operators. I will continue doing so for as long as the emerging industry requires legal services. "At this critical time, when the economic challenges and regulatory issues have become insurmountable and there is little support afoot, it is essential that there are attorneys willing to advocate and represent the industry's participants."