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Marijuana moguls had a half-baked plan for Portland property. Squatters turned it into neighbors’ nightmare

One of Oregon’s biggest marijuana chains bought a Portland home in 2020, planning to turn it into a dispensary.

But the pot shop never materialized. Instead, neighbors say squatters moved into the property, which became a hotbed for dangerous crime like drive-by shootings, and the new owners — who bankrolled several prominent Democratic politicians — ignored their concerns. 

A person walks into a crumbling and burned house in Portland

One of Oregon’s biggest marijuana dispensary chains owns a property that neighbors say has been crawling with squatters for the past three years. (Screenshot/KOIN 6 News )

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“Just having the property owner saying, essentially, ‘If you don’t like it, move’ — as if, I am the problem because I’m annoying him with things that could actually end my life,” Jacob Adams, who lives nextdoor to the property, told KOIN 6 News.

La Mota is Oregon’s second-biggest cannabis dispensary chain, with 22 locations scattered across the state. Its owners, Aaron Mitchell and Rosa Cazares, were referred to as the “power couple of Oregon cannabis” in a recent Willamette Week investigation. They’re also frequent sponsors of Democratic candidates, throwing fundraisers at a rented mansion for now-Gov. Tina Kotek, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, and more, Willamette Week reported.

Since La Mota bought the property in southeast Portland, emergency crews have responded to the house 36 times for fires, theft reports, disturbances and shots fired, and the city has issued numerous code violations on the house.

“When we almost lost our house and the fence burned, I no longer was going to take this silently,” Beth Adams, Jacob Adams’ wife, said.

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Amid media scrutiny, the owner put up a fence and told city officials he planned to demolish the house, according to KOIN. And late last week, La Mota issued a statement apologizing to neighbors.

“It is completely understandable that neighbors are frustrated. We want them to know that we are working as quickly as possible to demolish this structure and redevelop the property,” the statement shared with KOIN 6 reads in part. “We are sorry that this process has taken so long.” 

The squatter property is one of many problems facing La Mota.

The embattled company has been hit with dozens of lawsuits alleging nearly $2 million in unpaid bills, and since 2018 the State of Oregon has issued $1.6 million in tax liens against Mitchell, Cazares and La Mota, according to Willamette Week. The IRS placed a further $1.4 million in liens on the couple for failure to pay personal income and employment taxes.

A person sprays a fire extinguisher over a fence at flames billowing from a Portland house

A Portland couple says the property next to theirs has been overrun with squatters, rampant drug use, fires and gunshots. (Screenshot/KOIN 6 News)

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And just last week it was revealed that Fagan has been moonlighting as a paid consultant for an affiliate of La Mota since February, while her office wrote an audit supporting more relaxed regulation of the marijuana industry.

Republican legislative leaders called for her resignation, and Kotek requested two investigations — one into the ethics of Fagan’s work arrangement and a second into the audit.

Fagan announced Monday morning she had terminated the consulting contract and apologized to Oregonians in a statement reading in part, “I exercised poor judgment by contracting with a company that is owned by my significant political donors and is regulated by an agency that was under audit by my Audits Division.”

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