A Betrayal By a Leader of Oregon’s Cannabis Industry Shows How the Weed Business Went From Down Home to Cutthroat


“We had this ideal that Oregon could do it different.”

Beth Schechter’s world shattered with a text message.

An Atlanta native, Schechter moved to Portland in 2015 to took a job as executive director of a nonprofit called the Open Cannabis Project in 2017. Her job: protecting small cannabis farmers by challenging patent claims on commonplace weed strains.

For two years, she was a happy warrior, collecting chemical and genetic data from pot plants and every now and then checking in with Mowgli Holmes, a geneticist and entrepreneur who was cataloging the plant DNA.

Then, this April, someone texted her a 25-minute video.

It showed Holmes pitching his company, Portland-based Phylos Bioscience, to investors at a conference in Miami. It also seemed to show she had unwittingly sold out those small farmers.

“To be honest, at first, I had no emotional reaction at all,” Schechter, 37, says. “It really took a few days to process and be like, ‘Wow, shit.’ Probably, the numbness in my body was shielding me from that so I wouldn’t just crumple into a ball.”

Since 2014, Phylos Bioscience—a startup founded by Holmes, a Ph.D. from Columbia University—had been collecting DNA samples from plants and publishing the data for the public.

Phylos and OCP both said they pitted themselves against companies like Monsanto, and often talked about working together to fight “corporate weed.” [Read More @ Willamette Week]