Most Affected: Corvain Cooper Was Given A Life Sentence For A Nonviolent Cannabis Offense

Corvain Cooper has reclaimed his life after being freed from a life sentence for a non-violent cannabis crime.
Most Affected: Corvain Cooper Was Given A Life Sentence For A Nonviolent Cannabis Offense
Corvain Cooper; Photo credit: Emily Eizen

Corvain Cooper had spent the previous weekend acting as chauffeur to his daughters Cleer and Scotlyn when he spoke to High Times in March. Most parents could say they drive their kids around, but Cooper made sure to live up to the part, decked out in a tux and top hat to take his girls around. Cooper values the time with his daughters more than most fathers after he was sentenced to life in federal prison for a third strike offense in 2013. Cooper’s sentence stemmed from his nonviolent involvement in an over 100-person cannabis distribution conspiracy. 

Now free as part of President Trump’s final clemency orders, he intends to reconnect with his family and community while advocating for further cannabis and sentencing reform so that others won’t end up in his predicament. 

A Refocused Life Derailed By The Past

Before his third strike, Corvain Cooper was taking off. The Los Angeles area native and fashion enthusiast had found recent and rapid success with his clothing line, Old Money. In six months, he had over 10,000 customers, including celebrities like Charles Barkley, Tyga and Faith Evans. He also had a boutique, SC Clothing, named after his daughters. The store boasted two murals of the girls on its outside wall.

Cooper admits to selling cannabis, but he had stopped several years prior, around 2009 or 2010. “I was trying to transfer my energy,” explained Cooper. 

Even when profiting off cannabis, he’d reinvest the funds and other resources into his community. Examples included partnering with YG for a store opening where he gave away free jeans to kids. On another occasion, he got Nipsey Hussle to perform for 300 guests. Like pot profits, he’d put revenue from these events towards his church.

“I’m not supposed to sell marijuana, but I did get stuff for the community,” said Cooper. He added, “I tried to do the best with the money that I possibly could.”

Best efforts weren’t enough to get away from the past. Conspiracy charges, or the supposed agreement between parties to violate the law, is what sunk Cooper. He calls the charges “the web you can’t get out of,” especially in environments like jails where people are looking to offer information for a reduced sentence. “You started a whole new life, tried to do something different, and this can come back and haunt you,” Cooper stated. 

Heading into the trial, Corvain Cooper felt he had a shot with a jury of his peers. He thought he and co-defendants Evelyn LaChappelle and Natalia Wade could win on the basis that they never were in North Carolina, the location of the cannabis deliveries and charges. Cooper also had faith he could win against the conspiracy charges and the alleged 40 tons of cannabis shipped. He claims prosecutors imagined the number. 

He was offered a 20-year sentence as part of a plea deal but turned it down, considering it close to a life sentence on its own. Cooper, LaChappelle and Wade would all go to court. In the end, the duo received 87 months each. Cooper was sentenced to life. 

Overcoming The Trauma And Tribulations In Prison

Prison is a traumatic experience for every inmate. Cooper’s experience was no different. He recalls thinking about others wrapped up in the conspiracy, including Parker Coleman Jr., who continues to serve a 60-year-sentence. Cooper was also removed from his family and sent to a federal penitentiary in Louisiana. 

“We’re all up under the same conspiracy,” he said. 

Prison brought additional trauma for Cooper. While imprisoned those seven years, he recalls witnessing numerous people taking their lives. Meanwhile, he reported that his final three years served at USP Pollock in Louisiana saw constant issues, from from murders, to fights, to suicide. He estimated that the prison’s longest stretch without a lockdown was around 45 days. 

The mental scars of the two burdens could sink plenty of people. Cooper was resolute in that not being his outcome. He relied on his faith, believing that God gave him the strength to keep going. “I looked at it like God had a purpose to send me through this,” Cooper explained. 

Those final three years also saw Corvain Cooper focus on self-improvement. He spent much of his time alone, often learning or writing. He’d learn about the latest in email and the stock markets, recalling when legal cannabis giants like Canopy Growth were mere penny stocks. He’d also commit to introspection and maturing along the way. 

His faith kept Cooper determined to survive and eventually leave prison. He also held belief in public support and lawyer Patrick Michael Megaro. In 2014, Cooper was featured in the BET documentary Smoke: Marijuana and Black America, which featured and was produced by Nas. The notoriety helped propel Cooper’s case and its injustice in public. 

Megaro helped organize appeals for clemency as well as assembling public support. He put together a campaign calling for Cooper’s release. The effort gathered over 151,000 signatures. He also credited an array of supporters like the Last Prisoner Project, Alice K. Johnson, Freedom Grow, Cheri Sicard, Amy Povah and Can-Do Clemency as core supporters and proponents of the signature drive. 

Megaro and Cooper both had faith in earlier attempts at clemency, citing Cooper’s inclusion in California’s campaign to legalize Prop 64, the bill that legalized adult-use cannabis in the state. Additionally, a prior codeine cough syrup charge now fell under Prop 47, which revised how the crime would be charged. Still, Cooper saw no change. On January 20, 2021, Cooper would finally receive clemency as the Trump administration left office. 

Corvain Cooper: Reuniting With Family And Advocating For Others

Corvain Cooper was released and got straight to two things: seeing his family and advocating for cannabis reform. 

After an emotional, heartfelt reunion with his now 15- and 11-year-old daughters, Cooper took to catching up on their lost time. He also began work with LPP as an advisor. Another primary focus is 40 Tons, a premium cannabis, accessories, and clothing brand named after the conspiracy’s alleged sum. Cooper serves as a brand ambassador, with a shirt celebrating Cooper’s release included in the line. He hopes to use 40 Tons to help advocate for those still locked up while also highlighting the struggles that face released individuals. 

He is immensely grateful for an ongoing GoFundMe campaign, which has raised nearly $16,000 so far. “I have a roof over my head,” Cooper said with pride. 

Today, Cooper continues to rebuild his life with his daughters, family and the advocates who helped secure his release. He now hopes to do the same for others through fundraising endeavors with 40 Tons, LPP and other efforts.

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