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Former Oregon Cannabis Director Files Corruption Lawsuit Against Governor Kotek

The Oregon cannabis industry is in a state of upheaval after former Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commissioner Steve Marks filed a lawsuit against Governor Tina Kotek earlier this month.

In the suit, Marks alleges he was forced out of office due to political pressure from cannabis business owners, including CEO Rosa Cazares of La Mota Marijuana Dispensary.

This news follows the scandal of former Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan consulting for the cannabis company La Mota without disclosing her work, which sparked an investigation into a conflict of interest against Fagan.

Timeline of Events

The Oregon cannabis industry has been rocked by a series of scandals, lawsuits, and political contributions related to La Mota Marijuana Dispensary.

First, it was revealed that former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan had accepted a private consulting contract with the cannabis company La Mota, which paid her $10,000 monthly. It was then discovered that Fagan had audited La Mota’s financial records and failed to disclose her relationship with the company, which constituted a conflict of interest.

In response to these allegations, Governor Tina Kotek called for an ethics investigation into Fagan’s actions and an investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice into the audit conducted by Fagan’s firm.

Fagan responded to these allegations and announced the termination of her consulting contract with La Mota and an apology to Oregonians. Fagan then resigned as Oregon’s Secretary of State.

Most recently, after Fagan’s resignation, former Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commissioner Steve Marks filed a lawsuit against Governor Kotek, alleging that he was forced out of office due to political pressure from cannabis business owners, including CEO Rosa Cazares of La Mota Marijuana Dispensary. In the suit, Marks also alleges that La Mota made political contributions to both Marks and Fagan in exchange for favors.

In an article by Willamette Week, Mark’s attorney said:

“Marks was summarily forced out of office by Gov. Tina Kotek in early 2023 because Rosa Cazares, prominent owner of one of Oregon’s largest dispensary chains and an opponent of cannabis regulations, wanted him gone,” alleges the claim, submitted by Marks’ attorney, Bill Gary of the Harrang Long firm. “Cazares placed herself in close orbit to the governor and to then-Secretary of State Shemia Fagan.”

Governor Kotek affirms Mark’s firing wasn’t concerning La Mota. Per Yachats News

The governor has been vague about her decision to fire Marks this year.

“Director Marks, I think, had been there for almost 10 years. It was time for a change,” Kotek said in May when OPB asked about the decision. “There was no relation to La Mota.”

La Mota Donations

The scandal has brought to light the conflicts of interest between La Mota and prominent Oregon politicians and their political donations. According to Willamette Week, La Mota donated $250,000 to Oregon cannabis causes and political candidates in 2020, including former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan’s campaign.

The donations have sparked questions about why the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) allowed a single dispensary to make such significant political contributions and whether these contributions were made in exchange for favors from the government.

Oregon’s Department of Justice is now investigating the matter, and what will come of this scandal remains to be seen. However, the Oregon cannabis industry needs to increase its transparency and strengthen its regulations in order to prevent similar conflicts of interest from occurring in the future.

The scandal between La Mota, Gov Kotek, Ex-Secretary of State Fagan, and Ex-Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission Marks highlights the need for transparency in politics surrounding the cannabis industry.

This is especially important considering that until recently, many people were being imprisoned for working with cannabis. Instead of being criminalized for their involvement in the cannabis industry, some are trying to gain the upper hand through bribery.

The truth remains to be seen as to what actually happened in this case, and it will be determined in court. However, this scandal could have been avoided if there had been better regulations and disclosure rules around political contributions from cannabis-related businesses.

It is essential that the cannabis industry takes steps to ensure transparency and ethical behavior in order to maintain public trust and protect the integrity of the sector.

Although this incident has been a setback for Oregon’s cannabis industry, it provides an opportunity to learn from these mistakes and put more rigorous regulations in place to prevent similar scandals from happening again in the future.

The cannabis industry needs to remain vigilant and ensure ethical practices are upheld for the sector to continue growing and succeeding in Oregon.

This scandal has demonstrated that transparency is critical when it comes to politics involving cannabis, and it is essential that we take steps to maintain trust and integrity moving forward.

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