Tiny, idyllic Sumpter, Oregon, near the Idaho border, may be a long way from where she grew up in Kankakee, Illinois, but when the opportunity presented itself to be part of the Beaver State’s new cannabis industry, Portia Mittons took it as a “sign from God.”
“I bought a dispensary and moved to Sumpter sight-unseen,” Mittons says, proudly. “And four and a half years later, we’re still here.”
Not only is Mittons’ store, the Coughie Pot, still there, it’s thriving. But not one to rest on her laurels, Mittons now has plans to get a little closer to home, using everything she’s learned in the past five years to try and get a license for a new store just outside Chicago. And though Mittons and her partners in the Bridge City Collective were unsuccessful in the first license lottery at the end of July, her perseverance again paid off as they received a transportation and dispensary license during a round in August.
But she is also focused on her larger effort to help others get into the business, as well as sharing the knowledge she’s gained to help them avoid some of the difficulties and issues she had to figure out on the fly.
“I can’t sell all the weed myself,” she says with a laugh, “even if I tried to.”
Mittons says it took four years of hard work to get the Coughie Pot to the point where she could turn her attention to new pursuits, like the Illinois license or her Legit Trappin clothing line and her work as co-chair of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois’ Minority Access Committee and the social equity racial justice chair of the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association.
Although Mittons always knew minority communities were most adversely affected by the War on Drugs, working in the cannabis industry has been an “eye-opener” as to just how deep those wounds have gone. Her own entry into the industry, in fact, helped highlight some of the disparity of new economic opportunities that left out those most affected.
Prior to opening the Coughie Pot, Mittons was living in Chicago, working as an event planner for a nonprofit organization and was involved in a dog-shampooing company with Big Boi, the rapper from Outkast. She got a message through Facebook from a friend of her father’s, mentioning an opportunity in Oregon’s new cannabis economy, one that he could not take because of a prior marijuana conviction. With the nonprofit closing and the dog shampooing business “iffy,” Mittons took the call as a sign.
“I was like, this is a great idea,” she remembers, noting that she decided to risk it all after confirming she could sleep on her mother’s couch if things went south. In Oregon, Mittons threw herself into the new business, working “every day, all day” and gaining the knowledge to begin the next step of her journey.
“I’m a normal person — small-town girl, no silver spoon, worked my butt off,” she says. “I just want other people to look at themselves and say, ‘I can do it too.’”