Loriel Alegrete is Chief Executive Officer at 40 Tons, a Black, woman-owned premium cannabis, … [+] clothing, and accessories brand from Los Angeles, California
If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for a great t-shirt or hat that sends a strong message in a cool way. It’s harder to find than it seems but when you find the right one, it becomes a part of who you are and you wear it for years to come. When I checked out the 40 Tons online shop, I saw plenty of hot fashion like this limited edition Breaking The Chains Tracksuit, but I also discovered an intersection between fashion and social justice happening. Check out their t-shirt line created for those currently incarcerated for cannabis with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the featured prisoners like this Free Parker Coleman Tee or Hope for Humberto Tee.
I learned that this premium cannabis clothing and accessories company was founded by the very legacy operators who’ve helped build the cannabis industry, and operated by CEO Loriel Alegrete, a woman who saw a lot of her most cherished loved ones get locked up for weed and decided to do something about it. Using her degree from The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, her experience as an entrepreneur and community outreach leader, talent for building culture, and the magic of being who she is, Loriel and the 40 Tons team are creating a company with a conscience on a mission to bring all 40,000-plus cannabis prisoners home and restore justice by the tons.
To quote the 40 Tons slogan: “Just because someone carries it well, doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy.”
Recent statistics state that a majority of owners within the cannabis industry are not POC…
Loriel Alegrete: If they don’t want to give us a seat at the table, we will create our own. And that’s exactly what I did when I created 40 Tons. I had to make sure we were represented. Not just as a Black female, but also representing the mothers, daughters and wives of those unjustly incarcerated over cannabis.
Are you able to find allyship and community with others in this business?
LA: Yes, when one door closes, several others open. I like to think of myself as a good judge character, and use my leadership skills to identify who is a true ally and align myself accordingly. My husband Anthony is white and happens to be an ally. Having him on our inner team has helped bridge relationships we might not have had otherwise.
What are some of the challenges you face as a Black woman in the cannabis industry?
LA: People not taking me seriously and/or feeling sorry for me — I want people to support 40 Tons, not because it’s a Black female owned business, but because it’s a good business doing great work. We’re capable of delivering premium products and great experiences just like any other brand. I am proud that 40 Tons is a Black female owned company. This is what true social equity looks like.
40 Tons was founded by the very legacy operators who’ve helped build the cannabis industry during … [+] the course of battle.
Your experiences with incarceration to those close to you must have been immensely stressful, yet you still managed to achieve so much — what motivates you?
LA: When Anthony was incarcerated, I had to be stronger than ever being both parents and supporting my children. My children have been motivating factors then and now. I also kept my faith in God, and knew I would persevere. This was just a chapter in my life and not the entire book. What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.
What has been the most rewarding part of being a leader that works to restore communities?
LA: When we — our industry — came together and found success in getting Corvain Cooper home from a life sentence without the possibility of parole over a nonviolent cannabis offense. It goes to show that if we speak up, we can make change. I also love the fact I can be a mentor for young women and show them we can do it just like men can.
Disclosure: 40 Tons Brand Ambassador Corvain Cooper is a legacy fellow and advisor to an organization I co-founded, Last Prisoner Project.
Amplifying your mission with a clothing brand is a unique method of fighting cannabis-related injustice. How did you develop the idea?
LA: We aim to build culture behind our brand, and so we find this approach appealing. Corvain has always been fashion-centric. In fact, he owned a retail establishment years ago. Also, I studied fashion at Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in my younger years. So, fashion has always been something the team has been connected to. This is our way to tell our story and have people support us.
Representing those impacted by the system — Co-founder Anthony Alegrete, Loriel and Brand Ambassador … [+] Corvain Cooper.
What was the process of starting this company like?
LA: We’ve been entrepreneurs for 20 years, and have started various types of businesses. Once we realized that this is what we wanted to do, we began the ground work — developing our brand deck, website, online presence, etc. Our team is diverse in many business practices, and all of our experiences helped in forming the company. Our biggest struggle is being able to finance this endeavor. We just lace up our boots and face the challenges head on. We are thankful for the many relationships we have solidified that have allowed us to do this. We’re so grateful because without them, there would be no us.
What has been a transformative experience for you along your journey?
LA: When I witnessed Anthony and Corvain charged with the same crime, and receiving vastly different sentences…. This changed my worldview. That’s when I had an aha moment. There has to be something done to change these types of injustices.
What was the process of acquiring clemency for Corvain Cooper under the Trump administration?
LA: This is a situation where 1+1+1+1 = 10. Many came together to rally behind Corvain Cooper’s cause. It wasn’t just one person or organization. It took lawyers filing motions and petitions. It took charities advocating, it took cannabis leaders speaking up, and it took the masses signing petitions and vocalizing Corvain’s plight. It took a couple of years. Anthony, Evelyn and Natalia (who are part of our team) were also on Clubhouse early, and used that platform to amplify the message. Every day, Anthony would go into cannabis rooms and bring up Corvain’s name. I think this played a big role in rallying the entire industry together. It was perfect timing because only four months after Anthony joined Clubhouse, Corvain was released. He literally drove up to the federal prison to pick him up.
Loriel stands for the strong women of the world powering through the challenges of loved ones behind … [+] bars due to cannabis.
What are your hopes for the future of legalization?
LA: I’m hopeful this special plant will be legalized at the federal level soon. I think it’s important not to stop at legalizing, but also bringing real restorative justice to our brothers and sisters locked up over this plant, many of whom are Black and Brown. We have to correct these injustices. It’s only fair that if we make the plant legal, we need to fix the justice system as it relates to cannabis.
How do you practice self care?
LA: I micro-dose edibles from time to time.… It’s tough running a household, attending nursing school, and being a CEO of a brand. In addition, I try to eat right, sleep well, and exercise as often as I can. It’s about finding a balance in life.
What have you learned about yourself through this process?
LA: I’m resilient, and I’m a fighter. The moments that impacted me personally have been when I had to watch my mother lose her battle with cancer. It means I had to become the matriarch of the family.
How do you hope to empower other Black women in the cannabis industry?
LA: I am passionate about mentoring Black women. By showing them that no matter what obstacles are put in front of you, you can do anything. Black women have this inner strength most people don’t see, they have this magic about them. It’s enticing, attractive, and contagious. It’s about mindset, and your network becomes your net worth. You must believe you are capable of doing the job and you’ll be capable.