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Trail Blazers: Interview With Corvain Cooper

In January, Corvain Cooper received a grant of executive clemency and was freed from prison after receiving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a nonviolent cannabis offense. We asked him about his experience, plans for the future, and thoughts on what will come for cannabis in the United States.

Corvain Cooper is Brand Ambassador at 40 Tons, a Black, woman-owned premium cannabis, clothing, and accessories brand from Los Angeles, California. Corvain grew up on the east side of South Central Los Angeles. Drawing from his experience navigating the legacy market, a background in apparel, fashion, and brand building, Corvain is an avid public speaker, activist, and advocate for bringing awareness to 40 Tons and the causes it serves.

In 2013, Corvain received a life sentence without parole after a “third strike” for his participation in a cannabis distribution operation. Despite the relatively minor offense, he was effectively “buried alive” at a federal prison in Louisiana, apart from his wife and two children, for something that was increasingly becoming legalized across the country.

Through his years in prison, activists and voters continued the campaign to relax cannabis laws across the U.S., and Corvain finally, and fortunately, received a grant of executive clemency from Donald Trump in his final days as President of The United States of America in 2021.

Corvain Cooper and attorney Patrick Megaro. Photo by Loriel Alegrete.

Corvain’s story is emblematic of the two disparate realities currently taking place in the U.S., one where some are able to profit off cannabis and the other where a cannabis-related offense can lead to a life sentence. Today, more than 40 thousand cannabis prisoners remain locked-up. Out on ten years of parole, Corvain is reuniting with his friends and family, rebuilding his life, championing the cause for 40 Tons and beyond. 

It took the hard work of many individuals and organizations, including the entire 40 Tons team, to help break Corvain free. Corvain now serves as an advisor to the Last Prisoner Project and is the author of a poignant four-part memoir, Look Into My Eyes, set to be released later this year. Just because someone carries it well doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy. For more information, please visit https://40tons.co

About 40 Tons

Photo courtesy of 40 Tons

Just because someone carries it well doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy. 40 Tons is a Black, woman-owned premium cannabis, clothing, and accessories brand from Los Angeles, California. Representing those impacted by the system — cannabis prisoners, victims of the war on drugs, their families, and loved ones.

While a booming billion-dollar industry flourishes across the globe, 40 Tons was founded by the very legacy operators who’ve helped build the cannabis industry during the course of battle. With true know-how, the scars to prove it, and 40,000+ cannabis prisoners still locked-up, 40 Tons is 100% real, authentic cannabis and cannabis culture standing up for those who fought, and still fight today, the tired and traumatic war over legalization.

With a mission to break the chains of these injustices stemming from prohibition, every 40 Tons purchase helps non-violent cannabis prisoners fight their unjust sentences, engage in restorative justice, and find full, equitable lives once they return home to their families. For more information, please visit: https://40tons.co

At Herb, we are continuously inspired by your story, tell us about yourself and your journey with cannabis? How has it developed over the years?

I am a father, entrepreneur, and activist. I’m a Brand Ambassador for the 40 Tons brand.

My journey with Cannabis started when I was young. My mother was already smoking weed. She used it for stress relief and pain. As I got older, I started to smoke weed too. It was something I used when I wanted to chill out or get inspired. In my early 20s, my homeboy Ant and I started with one-eighth of weed and we started selling it from there.

All the D boys, or street guys in Los Angeles at the time, smoked the good shit, and since we wanted to have the finer things in life but didn’t want to sell harder drugs or do things that hurt people we started selling weed so we could get the nicer things too. We worked our way up from eighths to pounds. Eventually, taking our business out of state where we could make hundreds of thousands. Unfortunately, we never knew you could catch a life sentence over weed.

Over the years, I continued to use the plant for stress relief and its healing benefits. I have always loved the plant and believe that no one should be imprisoned for a nonviolent cannabis offense.

Corvain Cooper walking out of federal prison after receiving executive clemency. Photo by Loriel Alegrete.

As someone who was previously incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis charges, what motivates you to participate in the industry as it stands today? 

It is my duty to help the 40,000 prisoners still locked up over this plant. I was blessed by the grace of God that I received the winning powerball ticket, presidential clemency. Many others have not been so lucky. I want to use my new platform to inspire others. I want to let them know to never give up and always have faith.

With the plant, becoming more and more legalized today, there should be no reason pot POWs should not be able to participate in this industry. There are many ancillary assignments people can do that are not plant-touching. White labeling, marketing and promotions, digital media, design, brand ambassadorships, and most important cannabis advocacy which includes social equity and restorative justice, are just some of the ways we can still be in this industry.

My friend Loriel Alegrete (wife of my homeboy Ant) started a brand called 40 Tons while I was incarcerated. With a mission to break the chains of these injustices stemming from prohibition — every 40 Tons purchase helps non-violent cannabis prisoners fight their unjust sentences, engage in restorative justice, and find full, equitable lives once they return home to their families.

As a Black woman, I knew she was the best person to do this since we are so underrepresented as people in this space. I was honored that when I came home from prison they made me a brand ambassador and helped me to start my own clothing and accessories line under the same 40 Tons movement. 

Where do you see the industry going in the next few years especially with the potential federal decriminalization?

I think this plant will become federally legal very soon! We just have to keep pushing.  

40 Tons will also be launching a merchandise line featuring Corvain, including official “Justice is Served” t-shirts with all proceeds going to support his successful reentry. Photo courtesy of 40 Tons.

What are some community resources you recommend for folx who have cannabis-related charges? 

Overall, I would recommend any person re-entering society to take the time to learn a new skill and really focus on living the straightened arrow. Nothing in life comes free and hard work, dedication, and commitment are things you’re going to need when you come home. Change your mindset! Take the same energy that got you locked up and apply it to something you believe in. Get educated!

I’d start with organizations like the Last Prisoner Project and work with their re-entry coordinator. In fact, their reentry coordinator is a dear friend of mine, Evelyn LaChapelle. They have many resources for prisoners coming back into society.

Marijuana Matters DC is an incredible resource that can help too. Through advocacy, entrepreneurship, and education, Marijuana Matters identifies and eliminates barriers to economic opportunity in regulated cannabis markets for those disadvantaged by marijuana’s criminalization.

Project Mission Green, led by fellow cannabis POW Weldon Angelos, is doing some great things to help get people out of prison and provide resources for them when they come home.

Depending on what city you are in, I’d find a local organization that can help connect you with local groups that can really help your situation. 

Do you currently consume? If so, what is your favorite cannabis product that you have tried recently?

No…..but I want to! I do not consume currently because I am on 10 years of federal probation. But if I were to consume it would either be Oceangrown’s Evidence flower, or Saucey Extracts Lava cake.

Support Corvain

Help him rebuild his life by donating to his official GoFundMe campaign.

Follow him on Instagram.

Visit 40 Tons’ website and follow them on Instagram.

Support the Last Prisoner Project.

 

interviewslearn
March 10, 2021
Written by Herb
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March 10, 2021
Written by Herb

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