By Veronica Castillo
If you’re looking at the cannabis industry with a wide view that only allows sight into the surface, it looks like most things are totally fine and thriving. When looking at the numbers, we see that in the United States:
- There are 24 states that have legalized cannabis for adult-use, Washington D.C., and 3 U.S territories (with 41 jurisdictions overall legalizing medical cannabis)
- Decriminalization of cannabis in 7 states.
- As of May 2023, there were 42, 187 active cannabis licenses in the United States
- Nearly $3 billion in retail cannabis taxes collected in 2022.
- The United States ranks number 1 in highest cannabis revenue in 2023.
The wide view doesn’t show what’s beneath the surface: those who remain imprisoned and those still fighting imprisonment for cannabis. In a country with the highest cannabis revenue in the world, the stats below are repulsive:
- In 2020, police officers across the country made over 300,000 cannabis related arrests.
- In 2022, the number of cannabis arrests was still over 225,000.
- As of 2022, there are over 30,000 people imprisoned for cannabis related offenses in states across the country (NORML noted these figures are likely underestimated because a significant percentage of law enforcement agencies fail to report their data to the FBI.)
We’ve seen administrations make positive moves granting clemency over the last decade.
- In 2021, the Trump administration granted clemency to a dozen people imprisoned for cannabis related offenses.
- In 2022, the Biden administration pardoned over 6,500 people that had served time in federal prison for simple cannabis possession.
But as we see above, there are almost the same number of people presently imprisoned for cannabis as there are licensed cannabis businesses in this country.
In a successful effort to let those 30,000-plus people know that they have not been forgotten, 40 Tons dared people to care at MJBIZCON 2023. 40 Tons is a social impact and lifestyle brand rooted in legacy and social restorative justice.
They took their mission to Las Vegas and launched the biggest letter writing campaign this nation has seen at the world’s largest cannabis conference.
The 40 Tons Letter Writing Campaign
40 Tons launched a one-of-a-kind letter-writing campaign in Las Vegas at MJBizCon 2023, providing attendees of the conference an opportunity to write and mail a handwritten message to someone imprisoned for a cannabis related crime.
MJBizCon is the largest cannabis industry conference of the year and this letter-writing campaign aimed to be the largest cannabis awareness and prison letter writing campaign ever conducted at a cannabis conference.
The goal was to have have 10,000 postcards written and then sent directly to prisoners currently incarcerated for cannabis crimes and as of the last day of the conference, 3,000 were completed.
40 Tons recognizes that receiving mail is one of the few things that bring solace, peace, and hope to the tens of thousands of prisoners currently incarcerated in the United States for cannabis-related crimes.
In a booth that was created to replicate a jail cell which was the home for the campaign’s launch, 40 Tons reassured prisoners that they are not forgotten, and that campaigns for their freedom are a priority for the cannabis industry. 40 Tons COO, Anthony Alegrete, M.A.O.L., said:
“The letter writing campaign is important because while we are at the largest cannabis conference making deals happen, creating generational wealth off the plant, it is others serving long prison sentences for the same thing. Mail is like gold. When an inmate receives mail it can totally change their energy. In a violent environment the simple act of receiving mail can create peace even if for a short period of time.”
40 Tons’ CEO Loriel Alegrete said: “The booth was a part of our unrelenting commitment to call attention to the hypocrisy of the cannabis industry making billions of dollars while there are still so many people in jail for this plant.”
“I remember getting letters from people I didn’t know while I was serving a life sentence from cannab is and how it would make my day. Some of whom I’m not friends with today. To get to pay it forward and do it for others is a true full circle moment,” Corvain Cooper noted.
The 40 Tons Digital Letter Writing Campaign
Starting 2024, those that want to send a postcard can get involved no matter where they are. 40 Tons is building their site to support the submission of digital postcards.
The plan is to keep the digital campaign similar to the in person campaign launch; select the person you want to write to, complete the postcard, submit it digitally, and 40 Tons will print and mail on the writer’s behalf.
Postcards will be mailed weekly and monthly updates on the number of letters sent will be reported on the 40 Tons site.
Post Campaign Launch Q&A with 40 Tons COO: Anthony Alegrate
I sat down with you all to discuss the campaign pre-launch, and followed its success during MJBizCon. Who helped work and manage the 40 Tons booth during the event?
Fruit Slabs came through majorly. We did a collaboration edible: Spicy Mango Hooch (mango tajin) and offered fruit sushi. It was incredible and everyone loved it! Medicated Barbies supplied 3 brand ambassadors and they did a great job! Inara Tayao-Lucero was the MVP staff member. She got there early, stayed late, and went above and beyond. Amber Davidson was there too and was great to work with!
What were the proudest moments on the expo floor during the conference?
Collectively: when we opened up the mailbox and all the postcards came out. It showed all the hard work we put in. For me it was when I walked in on day one and saw the booth fully set up. It was such a surreal moment.
For Loriel, it was when she was speaking on stage on day two, and Parker Coleman called from prison while she was speaking. She got to place the phone to the mic and everyone could hear him speak.
For Corvain, to have a letter writing campaign he was once a recipient of. Seeing the people that wrote him but in real life. It came full circle.
Overall just seeing how far we have come from an idea 3 years ago to what we are today. It was such a blessing. We are proud that we had a 100% all female brand ambassador team (Buy Weed from Women).
We also launched our “buy weed” shirt, which is a remix of the tasteless shirt from last year that said “Buy Weed From Rich White Men”.
We closed some great deals: a deal in Minnesota for a beverage and gummy, a collaboration with Ball Family Farms for the Ray Gibson “Life” line, and we engaged with many MSO’s to bring us into their house of brands in other states. So it was a great business opportunity for us.
Now that the campaign has launched, what’s still needed to keep the campaign strong, and how can people still get involved?
We still need more people to understand that people are still incarcerated for cannabis. Awareness is key. We need dispensaries, companies, and all levels of the supply chain to partner with us and bring this letter writing campaign to their businesses.
40 Tons is looking for supply chain partners all across the USA. We need more people and businesses to help bring 40 Tons to market to make even more impact. Companies can utilize 40 tons to further their social impact initiatives.
40 Tons is a multi-state brand on a mission to make a great impact. But like most missions, the 40 Tons mission needs support. The community and the proper investment makes so much possible. 40 Tons partnered with cannabis industry companies and professionals to build the campaign, launch the campaign, and help manage the booth. Hear from them about the importance of this campaign and why they signed up to support.
- Custom Cones USA (title sponsor): “We wanted to partner with 40 Tons, because DaySavers is a smoking accessories brand that is all about transparency and charity. Coming up with a charity initiative from cannabis criminal justice reform has been top of mind for the past year and when we connected with 40 Tons all the pieces finally came together! We are excited to be announcing these DaySavers x 40 Tons Edition charity cones, which will come up early 2024”. – Harrison Bard, Co-Founder
- Vert Pack: “The mere existence of a brand like 40 Tons is enough to inspire. When I first met Anthony Alegrete back in May I immediately was struck by his authenticity. His story, his dedication – the way he and his partners started 40 Tons and every step they’ve made since are what inspired me to get behind the letter writing campaign. I am proud to have Vert partner up with 40 Tons on this powerful initiative and I invite anyone seeking to make an impact to join us”. – Dustin Steerman, Founder
- Eco Mastermind: “As someone who has operated in both the legacy and regulated markets, I make a living doing the very things that many people still sit in prison for. Because I’ve been so fortunate, and the 40 Tons movement resonates with me, I feel it’s important to support whenever possible.” – William McKenzie, Founder
- Fruit Slabs: “We partnered with 40 Tons to create a special flavor available for California retailers and it debuted at MJBizCon: Frushi, fruit sushi, SMH flavor. Fruit Slabs and 40 Tons believe no one should be in prison for cannabis. Anthony and Loriel are like family to the Fruit Slabs team and it really was an honor to be brought back to the conference in a way that showcases diversity and the injustices that many people still face.” – Maggie Wilson, CMO
- The 1937Group: “As a minority-owned and social equity cannabis operator, we know that actions speak louder than words. We focus on doing our part to create more equity and inclusion in the industry, and that can’t be done without bringing awareness to those currently incarcerated over this plant.” – Ambrose Rose, CEO
- NACAT Pros: “Our decision to support 40 Tons’ campaign stems from our belief in their cause and our desire to be a catalyst for positive change. We are eager to contribute to a movement that not only aligns with our values but also has the potential to transform lives and communities affected by outdated and unjust drug laws. By collaborating with 40 Tons, we aim to raise awareness, mobilize support, and ultimately contribute to a more equitable and just society.”- Naomi Granger, CPA, MBA, Founder
- Inara Tayao- Lucero: “I met Anthony and Corvain at the Cannabis Marketing Summit (hosted by Cannabis Marketing Association) in 2021. I’ve felt aligned with the 40 Tons mission ever since, so when the opportunity to work with them came about, I knew I had to jump in! I’ve always felt strong about recognizing my privilege to freely consume cannabis while so many people are still incarcerated for this plant medicine.”
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Header Image: Campaign postcards; photo credit: Stoner Shenanigans