Friday June 17, 2022
By Shirley Ju
An organization called 40 Tons is setting the bar high when it comes to cannabis with a purpose. Bringing new levels to the term “socially conscious,” the Black and woman-owned cannabis company was created to serve all those impacted by the system, from cannabis prisons to victims of the war on drugs to their families and loved ones.
With cannabis booming into a billion-dollar industry that’s been thriving from California to all over the globe, 40 Tons was created by the same legacy operators who have been fighting the good fight to break the negative stigma of cannabis. In fact, over 40,000 inmates are still incarcerated to this day for marijuana charges and convictions — which is baffling to think given the legalization of cannabis in over 19 states in the country.
The Mission of 40 Tons
40 Tons’ mission is to “break the chains of these injustices stemming from prohibition,” with every purchase helping cannabis prisoners fight their unfair sentences, engage in restorative justice, and work towards living an equitable life once they are released from jail and be able to return to their families.
The name 40 Tons derives from the amount of cannabis that led Corvain Cooper to be hit with a life sentence… which thankfully he was released after obtaining the winning lottery ticket, a presidential clemency, on January 20th of last year by former president Donald Trump. While the company is extremely grateful for the release of Cooper, there lies a bigger task at hand: freeing the thousands of prisoners still behind bars over cannabis offenses and helping them upon return. Hence, #FreeThe40K was born.
Interview with Anthony Alegrete from 40 Tons
PotGuide had the pleasure of speaking to Anthony Alegrete, co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of 40 Tons, to discuss their recent career conference in Oakland, the overall impact of the brand, how it all got started, the importance of serving BIPOC communities, his NFT project, and more!
[Shirley Ju]: You just obtained sponsorship from another 3 booths for your career conference up in Oakland today, can you touch on that?
[Anthony Alegrete]: We don’t just sell cannabis products and merch. We have an entire restorative justice/social impact component to our brand, which includes Career Conferences. We believe that if we were going to start a brand, we had to have an impact and bring humanity into the cannabis space.
The Canna Get a Second Chance Cannabis Career Conference is basically a miniature Hall of Flowers, but instead of it being for weed, it's to get people jobs, careers, and provide a massive amount of resources to bring more BIPOC into the space and give second chances to those with past cannabis convictions. We are deeply grateful for our sponsors that have helped make this happen, including Curaleaf’s rooted in good program, Herbl Solutions, Stiiizy, and many more.
[SJ]: How important is an event such as this? I know you had Stiiizy on as your partner during your last conference in Los Angeles.
[AA]: Oh man, they're phenomenal. In fact, they're partnering on this one as well. Stiiizy will be at the one in Oakland. We’ve built a great organic relationship with their diversity and inclusion team. DeRon Waller who heads up the program has been an incredible supporter of ours and spearheaded this great partnership.
We also have Curaleaf, Pactone, Vertosa, Mediajel, Herbl, 710 Labs, Dutchie, Last Prisoner Project and many large brands that have supported. We also could not forget about the equity brands and organizations that helped put Cannabis on the map. In Los Angeles, or wherever we bring our Career Conferences to, we do our best to try and include as many equity groups as possible, often comping their booths or providing an equity discount.
Our next Canna Get a Second Chance Cannabis Career Conference is slated for Trenton, New Jersey on August 13th, then we'll double back to LA towards the early fall of 2022. However, we are in discussions with various companies that want to bring the conference to their city.
This event is extremely important because what we do and how we execute has never been done before in the industry. Our conferences bring together a diverse set of talent and offer many tools and resources for job seekers in or looking to get into the cannabis industry.
[SJ]: What does it mean to take the conference across the country, and how impactful is it on the community?
[AA]: Oh my Goodness, it's such a blessing for us to get to help people all across the country. When we decided to take this conference outside of our home city of Los Angeles, the first place we selected was Oakland, CA for its deep historical history with the plant. We also had to pay our respects to those in Oakland. Oakland is one of the Mecca’s of the cannabis industry.
Bringing these conferences to the different cities is a collective effort with those cities. We never want to come into any city and act as if we are saviors. We want to tap in with the local community and really pay our respect to those that helped pave the way in their respective cities. We have a program that our team believes can help benefit your local city.
The larger brands definitely play a role and help with the facilitation of the impact, but we never want to exclude anyone that may not have the budget to be there, or in the beginning stages of building their brand or organization. If you have a great attitude and are genuinely interested in helping your community we want you there.
So, we reached out to many bay area equity companies and nonprofit organizations. These were the ones that came out and supported: The Oakland Equity Collective Team, Supernova Women, Oakland Equity Trade network, Conscious Mindz Distribution, Self Sufficiency, Sunset Connect, Purple Heart, New Life CA, and Jackfo,
Anytime you go into anyone else’s city it’s only right to tap in with the locals and partner up. Collaboration over competition is our motto.
Here is the final video of the Oakland Career Conference.
[SJ]: Being one of the co-founders, when did you first get the idea for 40 Tons?
[AA]: Ironically, it all started 20 plus years ago when Corvain Cooper and I sold our first eighth of bud together.
Fast forward 10 years later, we start to realize that cannabis is being more accepted and we might have a chance under the Trump administration to get some of these people out of prison, including Corvain.
Corvain and I have been friends for 27 years. 40 Tons started 27 years ago when we met. We just didn't know it yet. Officially, it started in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic when we realized we might have a chance at getting Corvain out of prison.
We formed the 40 Tons brand about a year before Corvain got out of prison. The whole purpose to start the brand was to bring awareness to his mission and hopefully get him out. Then we caught the winning lottery ticket, on January 20th, 2021 when then president Trump gave him a presidential clemency on his last day in office.
Thanks to many organizations and advocates like Brittany K Barnet and the buried alive project, Alice Johnson, Freedom Grow Forever, Life for Pot, Cheri Sicard, The Last Prisoner Project, Project Mission Green, Cando Clemency and many more that were all tirelessly advocating to get him out.
When he got the life sentence, the newspaper article read “California man sentenced to life in prison for 40 tons a weed.” We named the brand 40 Tons in honor of turning a negative into a positive. We were determined to change our lives and utilize what took us down to help rebuild others and make a real difference.
We understood that we committed the crime of selling cannabis without a license. However, we’ve always advocated that the punishments don’t fit the crimes. If there are going to be billions of dollars legally made, then why is anyone still in prison over cannabis solely.
[SJ]: What do you think we’re the key influential factors that helped get Corvain out of prison?
[AA]: Great question. This is a case of 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 10
I don’t believe that there was any one occurrence that did it. I think the collective efforts of many are what led to his release. Each had more or less influence on the final outcome for sure, but even the 152,000 people that signed the change.org petition contributed to his release. All the organizations I named above all had some sort of role in his release. From walking the clemency into the Whitehouse to standing outside the Whitehouse and picketing.
Nas, B-Real, Berner, Al Harrington, Kamala Harris, Virgil Grant and 20 plus other celebrities were in a documentary called Smoke & Black America, which brought national attention to Corvain Cooper's cause.
[SJ]: Talk about the NFT project you’re working on.
[AA]: Eewwwwwwww, we’re about to change the game on that! So, personally I’ve been dabbling in crypto and NFTs for over a year now. I have taken the time to really learn the space and participate in it. I knew that web3 was here to stay and something any business should be learning and getting involved in.
So, I created an amazing NFT project that has loads of utility. I wanted to create something that gave back to the 40 Tons Brand and the cannabis prisoners. But I knew there needed to be utility, great artwork, and a reason for someone to want to buy the NFTs.
Without giving too much away, because the project launches VERY SOON. All art is original hand drawn art. There is a utility that allows for communication with the prisoners and a very large % of the project goes directly to the 10 cannabis prisoners we selected to help on our first of many projects, directly. Not a 5% or 10% share, but rather a LARGE percentage is going back. The largest, I believe, that has ever happened.
Our hopes are to build a pathway to create wealth for these prisoners so that when they come home, they don't come home to nothing. On this first project if we sell out, we'll probably make around $15K per prisoner in today's cryptocurrency prices. Imagine if that $15K in 5 years goes to $75K? It's like a stock. We're building ways for these prisoners to have something to come home to. We are also funding the many other projects we have that are all social impact driven. The art’s dope, the utilities are vast, access to events, access to private parties, access to merch, access to future drops, then donations to the prisoner directly is what this is about.
To learn more about this NFT project, please visit CannaConvicts.io
It’s amazing to see how different organizations in the cannabis industry can come together for the better cause. 40 Tons is a shining example of this; how they are fighting for the freedom of marijuana charged, incarcerated people and finding them jobs once released. With more and more social equity groups jumping on board together, real impact is moving within the cannabis industry.
This is Part 1 of our interview with Anthony Alegrete. Stay tuned for Part 2 as we discuss the 40 Ton’s cannabis brand, their mission, and the challenges they had to overcome.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below on cannabis NFTs, social equity organizations we should know about, or your thoughts on the war on drugs!