An investigation of the second-largest cannabis shop business in the state and its founders was released by WW last month. Since 2017, at least $3 million in federal and state tax liens have been filed against Aaron Mitchell, Rosa Cazares, and their matrix of businesses that comprise the La Mota dispensary network.
They have been sued 30 times in Oregon circuit courts. (Many of the formal complaints state that invoices have gone unpaid.) The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, meanwhile, granted La Mota annual license renewals with few questions asked, facilitating the chain’s growth.
Mitchell and Cazares were not investigated even after they became consistent political contributors to prominent Democratic Party lawmakers. The Oregon Department of Justice is presently looking into the OLCC, and it would make sense for them to consider whether La Mota had preferential treatment from the commission.
Although top OLCC officials were found to have claimed the right to purchase rare bottles of bourbon for themselves and friends when those bottles were not available to the general public, a spokeswoman for Governor Tina Kotek told WW on Thursday that the governor has not asked Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to include La Mota in a criminal investigation of the OLCC that her administration launched in February.
Kotek had requested that Rosenblum investigate the allegations of corruption in the liquor industry. Rosenblum is married to WW parent company co-owner Richard Meeker (full disclosure). When asked whether Rosenblum had broadened the inquiry to include La Mota, the Oregon Department of Justice remained silent.
Two state departments are now under investigation for possible La Mota influence. The Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries formally canceled a $554,000 grant in August to a charity that Cazares, 34, co-founded in late 2021 on the same day WW published its piece on La Mota.
The organization had promised to start an apprenticeship program to teach people how to harvest cannabis from plants. After an apprenticeship council under BOLI’s supervision voiced concerns about the organization’s high staff expenditures and lack of industry backing, then-BOLI Commissioner Val Hoyle (now a U.S. congressman) came to the organization’s defense.
Kotek has shown no signs of favoritism for La Mota. Despite WW’s revelation that the founders had failed to meet their financial responsibilities even as they submitted cheques to her campaign, she has not returned the money they donated.
During his run for governor, Kotek received $38,000 in contributions from influential backers, including Cazares, Mitchell, and La Mota. Cazares’ political action committee gave an extra $35,365 to Kotek.
The freshest information on events at Oregon State is as follows:
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Before being evicted from the Northwest mansion they rented in October 2022 for alleged nonpayment, the couple had a small fundraiser for Kotek there that April. Cazares also helped organize a pickleball tournament in August and a black-tie fundraising event for Kotek in October.
(Pictures taken during the event show Kotek and Mitchell playing pickleball together, and pictures taken at the gala show Kotek and her wife standing with Cazares and Mitchell.) It seems that La Mota’s political power is declining. Last week, Cazares was booted from the board of Emerge Oregon, a school that trains future female politicians.
Cazares is still a part of the Portland City Council’s cannabis policy advisory group, the Cannabis Policy Oversight Team. City Commissioner Carmen Rubio is in charge of the group.
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