The intersection of fashion and social justice with 40-ton CEO Loriel Alegrete
If you’re like me you’re always looking for a great t-shirt or beanie that sends a strong message in a cool way. It’s harder to find than it looks, but when you find the right one it becomes a part of who you are and you’ll wear it for years to come. When I browsed the 40 Tons online store, I saw a lot of trendy clothes like this limited edition Breaking The Chains tracksuit, but I also discovered an intersection between fashion and social justice. Check out their line of t-shirts created for those currently incarcerated for cannabis, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to featured prisoners, like this free Parker Coleman or Hope for Humberto t-shirt.
I learned that this premium cannabis clothing and accessories company was founded by the incumbents who helped build the cannabis industry, and operated by CEO Loriel Alegrete, a woman who has seen a lot. of his relatives being locked up for weed. and decided to do something about it. With her degree from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, her background as an entrepreneur and community outreach leader, her talent for building culture and the magic of being who she is, Loriel and the The 40 Tons team create a business with a conscience on a mission to bring home over 40,000 cannabis prisoners and restore justice by the ton.
To quote 40 Tons’ slogan: “Just because someone wears it doesn’t mean it’s not heavy.”
Recent statistics indicate that a majority of owners of the cannabis industry are not POCs …
Loriel Alegrete: If they don’t want to give us a seat at the table, we’ll create ours. And that’s exactly what I did by creating 40 Tones. I had to make sure we were represented. Not just as a black woman, but also representing the mothers, daughters and wives of those unjustly incarcerated for cannabis.
Are you able to find alliances and community with others in this business?
THE: Yes, when one door closes, several others open. I like to think of myself as a good judge 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 internal team has helped build relationships that we might not otherwise have had.
What are the challenges you face as a black woman in the cannabis industry?
THE: People don’t take me seriously and / or feel sorry for me – I want people to support 40 Tons, not because it’s a business owned by black women, but because it’s a business. good company that does a great job. We are able to deliver premium products and great experiences just like any other brand. I am proud that 40 Tons is a business owned by a black woman. This is what real social equity looks like.
Your incarceration experiences with your loved ones must have been extremely stressful, but you still managed to accomplish so much – what motivates you?
THE: When Anthony was incarcerated, I had to be stronger than ever by both being parents and supporting my children. My children were motivators then and today. I also kept my faith in God and knew I would persevere. It was only a chapter of my life and not the whole book. What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.
What has been the most rewarding part of being a leader working to restore communities?
THE: When we – our industry – came together and managed to bring Corvain Cooper home from a life sentence without parole for a non-violent cannabis offense. It shows that if we speak up, we can make changes. I also love that I can be a mentor for young women and show them that we can do it just like men.
Disclosure: The 40-ton brand ambassador, Corvain Cooper, is a former member and advisor of an organization I co-founded, Last Prisoner Project.
Amplifying your mission with a clothing brand is a unique way to fight cannabis injustices. How did you develop the idea?
THE: We aim to create a culture behind our brand, so we find this approach appealing. Corvain has always been focused on fashion. In fact, he owned a retail establishment years ago. I also studied fashion at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in my youth. So, fashion has always been something the team has been connected with. It’s our way of telling our story and having people supporting us.
How did the creation of this company go?
THE: We have been entrepreneurs for 20 years and have started different types of businesses. Once we realized this was what we wanted to do, we started the basic work – developing our brand platform, website, online presence, etc. Our team is diverse in many business practices, and all of our experiences have helped shape the company. Our biggest fight is to be able to finance this business. We just lace up our boots and face the challenges head-on. We are grateful for the many relationships that we have built and that have enabled us to do so. We are very grateful because without them there would be no us.
What has been a transformative experience for you along your journey?
THE: When I saw Anthony and Corvain accused of the same crime and receiving very different sentencesâ¦. It changed my view of the world. That’s when I had an aha moment. Something has to be done to change these types of injustices.
What was the process of obtain clemency for Corvain Cooper under the Trump administration?
THE: This is a situation where 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 10. Many have come together to rally to the cause of Corvain Cooper. It was not just a person or an organization. It took lawyers to file motions and petitions. It took charities to defend, it took cannabis leaders to speak out, and it took the masses to sign petitions and voice Corvain’s fate. It took a few years. Anthony, Evelyn and Natalia (who are part of our team) were also on Clubhouse at the start and used this platform to amplify the message. Every day, Anthony walked into the cannabis rooms and mentioned Corvain’s name. I think it played a big role in rallying the whole industry. It was the perfect timing because only four months after Anthony joined the Clubhouse, Corvain was released. He literally drove to federal prison to pick it up.
What are your hopes for the future of legalization?
THE: I hope this special plant will soon be legalized at the federal level. I think it is important not to stop at legalizing, but also to bring real restorative justice to our brothers and sisters locked in this factory, many of whom are Black and Brown. We must correct these injustices. It is right that if we make the plant legal, we have to fix the legal system when it comes to cannabis.
How do you practice self-care?
THE: I micro-dose food every now and thenâ¦ It’s hard to run a house, go to nursing school, and be CEO of a brand. In addition, I try to eat well, sleep well and exercise as often as possible. It’s about finding a balance in life.
What have you learned about yourself through this process?
THE: I am resilient and I am a fighter. The moments that touched me personally were when I had to watch my mom lose her battle with cancer. It meant that I had to become the matriarch of the family.
How do you hope to empower other black women in the cannabis industry?
THE: I am passionate about mentoring black women. By showing them that no matter what obstacles stand in your way, you can do it all. Black women have that inner strength that most people don’t see, they have that magic in them. It’s alluring, attractive and contagious. It’s all about the mindset, and your network becomes your net worth. You have to believe that you can do the job and you will be able to.