Amy Margolis Interview: Founder of The Initiative, the First Cannabis Accelerator for Women

Amy Margolis The Initiative

Amy T. Margolis is a 17-year practicing attorney and founder of the Oregon Cannabis Association, one of the largest state cannabis trade groups in the U.S.

Amy advises businesses and investors on the deployment of capital, multi-jurisdictional growth, public offerings and all stages of business and corporate development.

Amy’s endeavor The Initiative is the world’s first business accelerator established to help female founded cannabis businesses succeed and access funding.

We had a chance to interview Amy and learn more about The Commune and The Initiative.  

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Could you explain your current projects, The Commune and The Initiative?

Amy Margolis: The Initiative is an accelerator program specifically for women cannabis entrepreneurs and executives, open to applicants worldwide.

The Initiative helps female founders become leaders, innovators and success stories by providing the necessary tools to succeed: education, mentoring, confidence in raising money, and one of the largest networks in cannabis.

The Initiative couples the right tools with access to funding and an unparalleled understanding of cannabis regulatory and market forces.

A nod to the collaborative and cooperative nature of cannabis and its roots deep in Oregon’s culture, the Commune is a 4,000 square foot event, office and boardroom space—the first cannabis friendly gathering space of its kind.  

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Located in a historic building in Old Town Portland filled with light, the Commune houses The Initiative, hosts business classes and bootcamps, incubator opportunities, speakers and much more.

The Commune is available for coworking, event rentals, infused dinners and conference room rentals and has availability for drop-in or monthly rentals, desks for rent, group seating, meeting rooms and larger event production.

When are applications opening up for women entrepreneurs?

Amy Margolis: Applications are open now! They close on October 1st.  

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What’s the Hustle Hard Retreat all about?

Amy Margolis: Hustle Hard is a three day intensive retreat on October 19th—21st in Bend, Oregon, at beautiful Brasada Ranch.

The event is for female entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry with a focus on fundraising, finance and business operations including negotiating a deal, business basics, corporate governance, marketing, raising capital and much more.

What lessons would you suggest other states who enact cannabis legalization take from Portland’s experience?

Amy Margolis: Other states should stop trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they should draw from the successes of other states and should work towards some sort of standardized approach.

Eventually, we will have national legalization and the more homogenous state laws are, the better.  

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As both an entrepreneur and an activist, what role do you see trade unions playing in the cannabis industry?

Amy Margolis: I love unions and would love to see them play a more active role. In particular, when it comes to agricultural workers and trimmers who are most likely to need community representation and face the same challenges across the board.

Although, getting unions involved has been somewhat difficult and didn’t work in Oregon. It will be interesting to see what happens in other states.

What was the most difficult part of getting The Commune, The Initiative and these other cannabis projects off the ground?

Amy Margolis: The most difficult part of any project is raising the money and having the will to just go do it.

After having been a lawyer for so long, this was quite a transition. I needed to make a fundamental decision to care about this project, and the success of women in this space, to take the risk.  

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What is your proudest moment since you started down this path of cannabis activism/entrepreneurialism?

Amy Margolis: I think seeing the Commune space completed and filled with people made this project very real.

What is your advice for hopeful cannabis entrepreneurs who are considering joining the industry?

Amy Margolis: You can do this. And, this is still the very beginning. This is going to be very, very hard, but not impossible.

Be well capitalized and then times it by four. There is no other industry quite like this one and it requires special and committed founders.

What is your advice to women facing challenges in the industry?

Amy Margolis: We absolutely have to be faster, stronger and better. Try and shut out the negativity and stay laser focused.

Do not be afraid to reach outside of your business for help with the things you do not know how to do— it is not a weakness.

Learn the most basic business vocabulary, so you are never intimidated in any room. Create a real network of advisors.  

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Thank you Amy! We appreciate the time you took for the interview. Best of luck to your first round in The Initiative.

Amy is also the founder and executive director of the Oregon Cannabis PAC, Amy’s been crucially involved in her home state of Oregon, sitting on almost every advisory committee for both the medical and adult use programs.

She’s also assisted several states with implementing adult-use cannabis legalization, testified at the Canadian Senate, and consults abroad with leaders shaping international cannabis laws. To date, Amy has organized and led four federal lobbying trips on Capitol Hill.

Amy Margolis is named on The Political 100 and 50 Most Important Women in Cannabis by Cannabis Business Executive (CBE).

Recipient of the prestigious 2017 Portland Business Journal Women of Influence Award given to only a small group of Oregon women every year, the outlet also hails Amy as one of the 40 Under 40 to Watch in Oregon Politics.

Elle Magazine refers to Amy as “Pot Power Woman” and lists Amy as one of the 10 Most Influential Women in the Cannabis Industry. Margolis is rated a Thomson Reuters Super Lawyer through a selection process based on independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

To know more about The Initiative, go to