Legalese: Amy Margolis

If you have been anywhere near the cannabis world you know the name Amy Margolis. As a criminal attorney in Oregon she spent the first part of her career in the court room fighting arrests and prions time. When legalization happened, she smoothly transitioned into helping Oregonians start legitimate cannabis businesses. Leading the herd, Amy started a cannabis friendly event space called The Commune in central Portland – and a cannabis business incubator course called the Initiative. Power. Funny. Motivator. Riding high.

Penn: Welcome to Chalice Farms TV. My name is Pen Lewis…

Kiki: and I’m Kiki Sherard…

Penn: … and we’re here today to show you some of the inside practices behind the best cannabis producers in the state of Oregon. We’re here to show you some of the things that happen behind the scenes to create and cultivate craft cannabis products.


Kiki: We’re here today at the Commune with Amy Margolis. Amy, thank you so much for being here with us.

Amy: Thanks for having me.

Penn: One, was law kind of always a pursuit for you and was it always kind of with cannabis in mind or were you already practicing law and thought This is a perfect environment to jump into right now. So how did that start?

Amy: So I’ve been a lawyer, this year 17 years, so it’s a long time and I started as a criminal defense lawyer. I mean, people in the cannabis industry were visionaries, right? So as the years went by, clients started to come and say I think we are going to see legalization.

Will you help us we help us start businesses? Will you help us enter (what soon became) the regulated market? Will you help us stay out of trouble? Clients transitioned from the illegal market into the legal market. I really just kind of came with them.

Kiki: Did you ever think that when you started, when you became a lawyer, that this would be where you are?

Amy: Not so long ago, the only time law enforcement would be in your grow is if they were cutting your plants down and putting you in handcuffs. So it was initially like a huge sea change, right? And it was a big emotional change. I think both for the people in the industry and for those of us supporting it. So, no, because we had no idea what was coming.

Penn: Let’s say, it was kind of, I would just have to imagine a transition more from you know, helping folks who’ve gotten into legal troubles with cannabis to more like proactive like preemptive work.

Amy: This industry requires you to be super nimble and not just for the, again, not just for the people who are actively engaged in the industry but for those of us who are supporting the industry, we have to be nimble and pivot fast, too.

Kiki: Your new pack, so let’s talk about that, like, so we’re here at the Commune. Let’s talk about this space and then go into the Initiative after that.

Amy: So the space is quite beautiful, I think.

Kiki: Very.

Amy: I’m definitely dying in an earthquake here but it is, really, it’s a price you pay for beautiful things. So when I started the Initiative, which is a business accelerator program for female founders in the cannabis industry, we knew we needed a space. It was just like the sun was, like, shining through the skylights and they were, like, rainbows shooting out of the windows but REALLY rainbows shooting out of the windows.

And it didn’t look anything like this, but we…I was like this is it. Like, it has a huge space over there, we can have events here, we can have private meetings. It’s really like just the right space. So we use it for the accelerator, we use it for events. Tonight we have “Ladies Get Paid”, we share it with nonprofits that my husband and I care about.

We constantly are trying to use it for things that we believe in. It is nice to have a place where you can come and feel like it is cannabis friendly. Where you just start recognizing here that cannabis is, for many of us, integrated into our lives. And so this is just another way to integrate it into your life.

We want this to be, particularly for women, but for everybody a place you can come and feel comfortable. Where you can feel like you’re having an experience where you feel like it’s a good place to sit and learn. And that was really important when we built it.

Kiki: And so you touched a little bit on it but, the initiative, so that’s your accelerator program. It’s focused on women entrepreneurs.

Amy: I mean, I’ve always been supporting businesses in this space. And this is just another way to support businesses in this space. It’s a little bit more teaching and a little bit less practicing and I think that’s the biggest difference. It’s that we’re doing more educating and less, you know, sitting down and drafting things and applying for licenses. But we’re also helping those women learn how to do some of that stuff themselves so they don’t need to access outside resources so heavily.

What does it mean to be a founder? What does it mean to be a leader in your business? What does it mean to be a CEO? What does it mean to be somebody who is able to go out and raise money? So in this program we’re trying to shift that. We’re trying to change things you’ve been taught.

And we’re trying to make sure that we’re giving you, and we use this phrase all the time, like, all the tools in your toolbox. And those include all the business tools. You know, we have lots of networking events. We have lots of parties, we have lots of panels but we don’t have anybody really getting down and dirty and teaching women how to succeed and then giving them access to funding.

Like we’re gonna empower you with a ton of information, right? We’re gonna help you learn all the business skills, we’re gonna help you learn all the legal pieces, we’re gonna help you understand the regulations, we’re gonna help you learn how to do all of these things. All the things you might go to a lawyer and have them do, or you might hire somebody to help you do. We want you to learn how to do those things.

Kiki: So what’s the value that women bring to businesses that men don’t?

Amy: Women bring actual value. Right, I mean we bring not just actual value because we’re, like, nice to have along but we bring real value, right? We know that hiring practices are more inclusive. We know that women run business’ who are equally situated to men are, they generate 63 percent more revenue. You have more problem-solving in the workplace when women are running it and they’re much more likely to, without quoting a statistic, turn around a business that’s failing. So, like, we succeed better than men. That’s just statistically proven.

Penn: What’s what’s next for you? Where do you see this going? Just a continual drive or…?

Amy: We feel like because we’re here that, like, the race is over right? But there’s like so many more states that are gonna come online and we’re gonna eventually, not for a long time probably, but eventually have interstate commerce. So we’re gonna have international commerce and we’re gonna have these businesses going through series of roll-ups and we’re gonna see more and more brand aggregators. I mean, we’re just at the very very very beginning. We don’t feel like that because we’re tired but, like, yeah it’s been 472 years since I started doing this and I think like we…we’re just at the beginning.

Kiki: So we ask everyone on this show what your chalice is, so Amy what’s your chalice?

Amy: I really do, right now, feel like my chalice is that I, like, get to do something that I’m proud of. Getting to do something that you like doing that is, like, a change-maker is really important. So right now that’s my chalice. In, like five years, my chalice will be laying on the beach and forgetting any of that ever happened. But for right now, it’s that I get to do something that I find to be, like, meaningful and making a difference.