PotGuide sat down with Anthony Alegrete from 40 Tons previously in an interview to discuss the foundation and background of business, a Black and woman-owned cannabis company that was created to serve people impacted or incarcerated by the system. 40,000 inmates are still in prison to this day for marijuana charges and 40 Tons is working day in and day out for their freedom.
With legalization in over 19 states, it’s amazing that there is such a stigmas still surrounding our favorite plant and that’s exactly why the founders of 40 Tons came together to educate and petition for people’s release and records to be wiped clean.
The Background Scoop on 40 Tons
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 Part 2
PotGuide continues to speak with Anthony Alegrete, co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of 40 Tons, to discuss the overall impact of the brand, the importance of serving BIPOC communities, and more!
[Shirely Ju]: So, How difficult or easy was it to launch your brand?
[Anthony Alegrete]: Launching a brand is a bear. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 23 years and it’s never easy starting anything. It takes time, capital, resources, and innovation. At the time, I was knee deep in other projects. But after much consulting with my other co-founders, Loriel and Corvain, we decided to take on the project.
A company we no longer work with but are thankful for their directive, told us we’ll help cultivate, manufacture, and distribute products for you, but one thing we won’t do is build a brand and market it. That’s something you will have to do if you want our help. With this new opportunity presented we’re determined to create something great. 4 months later and with the help of AVO Brands, we created the 40 Tons Brand and put together an
We came up with the 40 Tons logo and the brand deck I sent you, Shirley. We sent it to that company and they were blown away at the detail we had put into it like “Holy shit, we don’t even have a brand deck like this,” and from there we continued to build and work on all aspects of the business. Like the supply chain, branding & marketing, operational infrastructure, web, design, and every other component of business. It ultimately ended up not working out with that brand, which was fine. We continued to push forward and more and more blessings opened up for us. We still thank and honor them for giving us the push and drive that set us on a path to build this brand.
What ended up happening since inception is truly a blessing from God. Many people came to us and either donated capital, their time, or connections to help us get going. From lawyers to accountants, PR specialists to design makers, cannabis licensed manufacturers helped put out products, professional services and volunteers gave a significant amount of resources to us.
If it weren’t for these people we would not be here today. There are too many to name but you know who you are, and even if we don’t work with you today, we still pay our respects to you for playing a role in our progression at that period of time.
We’ve also learned that this industry is very tumultuous, ego driven, overly taxed, ridiculously over compliant, and in California almost impossible to profit without being cut throat to some part of the supply chain. And thus, we have expanded into other states, other revenue streams, and an entire cannabis career services platform.
So, to your original question. It has been very difficult but with the right people helping us, and the 23 plus years of entrepreneurial experience, it has definitely been one wild journey that has become fruitful. One of my favorite sayings is, “Smooth Seas Don’t Make Skillful Sailors”.
[SJ]: There’s been an influx of cannabis brands as of late. How can you ensure your flower upholds quality?
[AA]: That’s another great question. We knew that if we were going to be a white label and be a non-plant-touching entity, we couldn’t just be any Tom, Dick, and Harry type brand. We needed more than just great quality cannabis. The people we work with are incredible resourceful and only select the finest of products. But there needed to be more to the brand than just the physical benefits.
We needed to build a brand that didn’t matter what flower we sold as long as it was quality within that category of cannabis. When you buy anything from us, you are supporting legacy, social and restorative justice. You are contributing to helping those impacted by criminalization. You are helping to bring more diversity and inclusion of BIPOC communities into the cannabis space and provide second chances to those past cannabis convictions. You are helping support the 10s of 1000s of cannabis prisoners via our many cannabis prisoner programs.
Our purpose and mission is much bigger than selling weed. It’s about making an impactful positive change and we’re utilizing cannabis and the industry to do so. But for all the cannabis smokers that want to know, we say try it out and give your honest feedback on the Tetragram app. We want to satisfy our customers and curate a great experience. Our goal is to always source the highest quality, regardless of what level the cannabis is at. But FYI, we got the Za!! [laughs]
We also have an ethos. We believe that nobody should be serving a life sentence for a cannabis offense. If the companies we work with don’t believe that, we don’t work with them.
[SJ]: Why is it important for you to bring on BIPOC communities into the space and provide second chances to the past cannabis convicted?
[AA]: Because these are the people that helped build this industry. Most of the people who’ve been arrested over this plant have been disproportionately black and brown. Most of the people who’ve experienced systemic racism in this country are black and brown.
Many of the people who got this plant to where it is today are the people that are locked up over it now. The Legacy Farmers in the emerald triangle lived off the grid for years in fear of reprimanded. Why should only the large corporate companies make billions of dollars off this plant, but not give back to these communities that helped build this infrastructure?
When alcohol was illegal, someone had to go to jail during prohibition. Unfortunately, the community that went to jail over alcohol weren’t the ones that ended up owning it afterwards. Only a handful of alcohol companies had a monopoly for decades on it. The legacy was completely kept out of that industry.
But with cannabis, we have an opportunity to change that narrative and give a seat at the table to the people that were directly impacted by the war on drugs, specifically cannabis. Typically, that’s black, brown, or poor people. Poor people black, white, mexican, asian, whatever, but poor. This is why it’s so important that we build 40 Tons.
There’d be no legal compliant industry without people going to jail, without people losing their lives over this. Without those who got sick and needed cannabis for medicinal use. It’s not just our want, it’s our duty to make sure those people are propped up in the industry.
And given not just a chance and opportunity but actual OWNERSHIP. That’s why 40 Tons is a black, female owned business. That’s why we partner with equity brands. That’s why we partner with the people that are involved in equity in some form or fashion, directly or indirectly.
[SJ]: There are 40K prisoners still incarcerated over the plant. What’s the solution?
[AA]: Number 1, we need to decriminalize and legalize cannabis. If we decriminalize cannabis, that helps majorly. The President can easily, with a stroke of a signature, do a mass clemency for cannabis prisoners. There are a few organizations out there facilitating this.
Google: “Cannabis clemency” for a list of organizations. Support and sign their petitions. Write your congress, and state legislatures. Vote for those that are pro cannabis. If we continue to destigmatize the use of the plant we can gain more and more mass adoption.
But it’s even deeper than just decriminalization and legalization. Because what does it matter if you get that person out of prison, and they end up going back? We got to stop recidivism. If we focus on providing education and opportunity, we can have an incredible impact on our system. That’s what 40 Tons provides through our career conferences and other programs. Providing someone with education, and the tools and resources to rebuild themselves and ultimately creating generational wealth is our way of making a difference.
Giving someone a career, or an opportunity can massively affect their lives.
We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that we have a mission. And that mission is to create a more equitable cannabis industry for all.
[SJ]: What do you see as the most important steps or actions that need to be taken to see more equality in cannabis?
[AA]: Right now, social equity is a buzzword. It’s technically a designation by the DCC. You hold a social equity license and in order to obtain that license, you have to meet set criteria. The problem is it doesn’t address the financial side of owning a cannabis company. What happens is these social equity applicants receive these licenses, but they don’t have a go to market strategy on how to launch their company. It costs hundreds of thousands, if not single millions to launch a company.
Because of the regulation on how the license is given, it puts the license holder into a position of negative leverage.
Now, they have to sell out to a predatory investor in order to get their business off the ground. We need to fix the licensing structure. We need to fix the way big business supports small business, and we need to get real. We need to give a real runway for these social equity applicants to really be able to get their business from point A to point B without having predatory lenders and investors come and gobble everything up. It’s really a multipronged approach.
I personally don’t have all the answers, but I know we need to change the way the licensing structure is for social equity. We need to lower the barrier to entry for social equity and we need big businesses to honestly, equitably, and honorably support small businesses.
It’s a Wrap
[SJ]: Anything else you want to let the people know?
[AA]: Less than 5% of black people are owners in this industry, and even less are female. As an industry, we need to embrace and support women and minority ownership. The female is usually the backbone to most relationships. The mother, the wife, the daughter, the sister have such an important role in our society. We need to bring the woman to the forefront of this industry and provide more ways to create leadership opportunities! 40 Tons is honored to have a strong female at our helm.
I also want to give a shout out to Brand Resumes for our partnership in bringing the Canna Get a Second Chance Cannabis Career Conferences to the masses. We have so much happening with the many strategic partnerships we’re securing across the country and soon will have the conference in each market. In the meantime, job seekers please upload your resume here, and companies set up your online profile to get direct access to a ton of diverse talent.
And thank you to everyone that has ever helped us in any type of way. We honor and appreciate it. Just because someone carries it well, doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy!