Brad Bogus

Beyond Black History Month: Celebrating Black Excellence in Cannabis Year-Round

The purpose of Black History Month is to celebrate the achievements of Black Americans. It’s important that we do this and reserve a month of focus on it. But it can also be offensive to many Black Americans, as this practice has inadvertently relegated celebrating Black achievement to just one month; and the shortest one, at that.

Morgan Freeman, for instance, had this to say: “Black History Month is an insult. You’re going to relegate my history to a month?”

We want to celebrate Black achievements year round. Black Americans have contributed SO MUCH to the daily fabric of this country; contributions that, if they vanished, would cause society as we know it to cease functioning: from refrigerated trucks to automatic elevator doors to color monitors for computers to turntables used as instruments to laser surgery for cataracts and much, much more.

We wanted to focus a spotlight on the Black cannabis leaders, advocates, artists and entrepreneurs that have achieved incredible things in the short life of this industry (and many that have been achieving well before there was an “industry”). 

And we want to do it all year.

First, we must acknowledge that there are not as many achievements as there should be in this industry; because while the War on Drugs 1.0 may be over, Black Americans are still serving sentences, some of them for life, just for possessing or selling weed. Social Equity programs continue to be dismantled or taken advantage of by major corporate forces in our industry. There’s also just the plain ol’ racism present in every industry on top of all of that.

As a Black-owned cannabis tech company, we look out and see very few others that are like us.


According to Crunchbase “Black-founded startups received less than 0.5% of the $140.4 billion in venture funding all U.S.-based startups received last year. In 2021, Black-founded startups received 1.4% of all U.S. venture funding. In 2022, it was 1.1%.”

According to a CB Insights report from 2015, less than one percent of venture capital-funded tech businesses are owned by Black founders. Black people make up 12 percent of the US workforce but only 8 percent of employees in tech jobs.

A rising tide raises all ships in this effort. While we’re here to celebrate Black achievements in cannabis, we encourage more than celebration, but genuine support. Do more business with and fund more Black-owned businesses in our industry. We can truly celebrate them in this way.

Lastly, let’s never allow our industry to forget the additional 40,000 humans serving non-violent cannabis sentences in prison. Imagine how many of them could be launching brands and retail stores if they were free from the confines of incarceration.

With that said, let’s close out Black History Month with our first piece celebrating Black achievements all year long. In this inaugural piece, we’re highlighting Loriel Alegrete and Corvain Cooper with 40 Tons Brand.

We encourage you to share any others that you think deserve a spotlight as well over the year. 

Corvain Cooper and Loriel Alegrete - 40 Tons Brand

It’s impossible to briefly convey all that makes these two people and their company amazing. At the age of 34, Corvain received a life sentence in prison, without the possibility of parole, for a “40 tons of weed” conspiracy charge. The war on drugs produced mandatory minimums and 3 strike rules, both of which worked against Corvain and his family.

40 Tons Brand began while Corvain was locked up as a way to advocate for Corvain’s freedom from prison in hopes he’d be pardoned. An exhaustive pardoning campaign secured his release from prison on the very last day of 45’s presidency. Hearing Corvain tell the story of his last days in prison, hanging on hope for freedom, going to bed knowing he would not be freed, and waking to the news that the last thing the outgoing president did was sign his release, is nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster. And it ends in glorious hope and freedom.

While Corvain was in prison, Loriel started the company with a focus on getting prisoners released, trained and placed in the cannabis job market. She already had faced the hardships of the criminal injustice system as her husband, Anthony (and current COO of 40 Tons), had been locked up for cannabis multiple times, seemingly always when a new baby was being born into the family.

Loriel was inspired to speak out and give a voice to all those serving sentences for cannabis offenses, to help them achieve their freedom and enter the cannabis industry as owners or employees. She has grown this company to be a major presence in the US cannabis scene, and even launched a highly lauded and successful prisoner letter writing exhibit at MJ Biz 2023. 

The 40 Tons Mission

Every dollar spent with 40 Tons contributes to the freedom of prisoners and the successful reentry of those prisoners into the cannabis job market, where they should have been all along, if the war on drugs never happened. 40 Tons Careers works with cannabis employers to connect them to impacted communities and ex-prisoners to help achieve the vision of employing more than 80,000 multicultural consumers by the end of 2024.

Again, it’s impossible to devote so few words to them and capture what makes them amazing. Look them up, support what they’re doing. Carry their products, sell their merch, and work with 40 Tons Careers to make the biggest, most necessary impact you can in our industry today.