EUGENE — When Ammon Bundy was arrested in January 2016 for leading the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon, he called Eugene attorney Mike Arnold for help.
Now Arnold, whose nearly two-decade career has taken him from a Lane County law clerk to a high-profile attorney representing accused murderers and defending Bundy in his first four months in jail, has left his firm for a job that might have made him a criminal just a few years ago.
Arnold has become a marijuana grower.
He co-founded One Gro in February with business partner PJ Martinez. They are operating on about 50 acres of farmland on two sites near the Coast Fork of the Willamette and Row rivers, with four marijuana grows totaling 40,000 plants.
He has been phasing out legal work with Arnold Law in Eugene, mentoring attorney Lissa Casey to take high-profile cases while his wife, Jacy Arnold, continues to run the firm.
When he started One Gro, Arnold planned to manage the business and Arnold Law. But as the marijuana startup rapidly grew, he knew it needed his full attention.
“For a while, I was getting up at 4 a.m. to get One Gro work done before the Arnold Law team arrived, doing legal work when I could and then heading to the farm to do tractor work at night with the headlights on,” Arnold wrote in an email. “That was unsustainable.”
During the years, Arnold, 40, has been as outspoken about his love for farming as he has been about his prominent cases, like his defense of Springfield resident Gerald Strebendt in a 2014 road rage shooting case.
Arnold lives on a farm near Creswell with his wife and two children, raising poultry and American guinea hogs, growing fruit trees and running a beekeeping operation.
For more than a year, Arnold said, he had been considering entering the marijuana industry.
He put together a business team that includes experts in sales and distribution, construction, marketing and real estate.
One Gro Investments hopes to utilize Oregon as a “laboratory for our concepts, fine-tuning and moving into emerging markets (other states) as legalization happens,” according to the firm’s website, and run a vertically integrated operation “from seed to retail store.”
The firm’s CEO is Dan Isaacson, an alcohol sales and distribution expert who has overseen millions of dollars in sales for brands such as Jack Daniels and Captain Morgan, according to One Gro’s website.
Martinez, vice president of operations, has more than 25 years of experience in construction. Larry Souder, vice president of emerging markets and business development, is a local Realtor.
A list of employee biographies lists a worker likely to run a future dispensary.
“I’m sad to have left the wonderful team at Arnold Law, but I haven’t left the legal profession,” Arnold wrote. “Jacy founded Arnold Law in 2002, and it will continue to thrive under her exclusive leadership. I’m simply using my legal skills and strategic vision for the sole benefit of One Gro now.
“My years of legal experience has given me unique insight into this emerging market, and it’s crying out for talents that I and my team have. This was simply an opportunity for which I was in the right place at the right time by being a lawyer, entrepreneur and farmer who happened to be in Oregon in the county best suited for ‘big ag’ for this particularly agricultural commodity.”
Arnold said legal restrictions prevented him from discussing many details about his plans for his business.
“I would love to comment more about the company and our goals but (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) regulations clearly state that we cannot,” he wrote.
Arnold said he started reading federal patent applications relating to THC, the psychoactive ingredient that produces the high from cannabis and byproducts, like cannabis oils. He said One Gro has secured the exclusive Oregon rights to an inhaler product that provides consistent doses of cannabis oils.
“This industry needs to be run by professionals, which is why I have hired a team of professionals to run One Gro,” Arnold wrote. “When I went to build my team, I went to experts in start-ups, agronomy, finance, total alcohol beverage, real estate, construction, high tech, etc. Most if not all of our management team doesn’t even use cannabis. They joined me because they believed in my vision.”