Willamette Week breaks the story that’s going to ruin his holidays.
One of the many weed entrepreneurs to descend on Cave Junction during the green rush was Matthew Portnoff, a partner with a specialty in cannabis law at the California offices of a white-shoe law firm.
In 2020, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission determined that weed grown at his farm in 2019 had been diverted onto the black market. But after a yearslong investigation, the agency was never able to conclude whether Portnoff authorized the leakage—or if he was instead the victim of a swindle.
Portnoff declined to comment for this story.
A graduate of UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California’s law school, Portnoff, 48, is an expert in tax law based in Beverly Hills, with a history of entrepreneurial forays. (An online database lists him as a producer of a romantic comedy starring Paris Hilton in 2006 that was panned by critics.)
In 2016, Portnoff and his wife, Luiza, purchased a Cave Junction farm for $415,000 just as the state began handing out licenses to grow recreational weed. (An LLC controlled by his father, a surgeon from California, bought 19 acres next door to his son for the same purpose.)
Two years later, Portnoff and his wife landed a license. So, eventually, did his dad. They grew thousands of plants on the 35-acre properties located along Takilma Road in the rural farmland of the Illinois Valley.
To run his new Oregon farm, Portnoff hired a local grower named Michael Horner, who’d come recommended by a California client.
But by the time the first harvest arrived, an oversupply of weed on the market caused prices in Oregon to fall by at least half.
And beginning in February 2019, the OLCC began documenting a series of concerning reports from Portnoff’s employees.
First, Horner quit his job working for Portnoff and told an OLCC inspector in February 2019 that men had arrived on the farm to take weed back to California for sale.
A month later, the inspector went to the farm to investigate. State-licensed farms are required to have surveillance cameras monitoring all aspects of the operation. But in March 2019, the inspector discovered a four-day gap in the footage—and found “many discrepancies” between the inventory on site and what was recorded in a state database. The inspector opened some storage totes to find them empty or full of “waste material.” (The OLCC declined to disclose the records identifying the discrepancies to WW, noting they were exempt from public disclosure.)
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