In Evelyn LaChapelle's first team meeting at a new job in the cannabis industry, they were discussing sales when she noticed a "righteous anger" brewing inside her. "My paperwork says I went to jail for over a hundred kilos of cannabis," says Evelyn, "and they're talking sales goals in kilos."
Since Evelyn was incarcerated for marijuana related charges, she's worked in the hospitality industry, for others in the cannabis industry and has recently become the CEO of a cannabis company called 87 Months, named for the amount of time she was sentenced. But this journey has not been easy.
Evelyn had a front row seat in California's changing cannabis laws, the whiplash from the speed of these shifts, and the inequitable ways the industry can shake out. She's also been a witness to the difficulty and lack of support in the re-entry process.
And she's one of thousands. Over 10 years ago, California was ordered to reduce it's prison population due to severe overcrowding, and more recently the pandemic forced the state to release even more people. On the outside, many are met with self-doubt, issues with learning new technology or discrimination based on their record.
"We are living among many people who were previously incarcerated... and are walking and carrying lots of shame and lots of guilt because of it. And I would just ask that people soften their heart and their language... You just don't know who you're sitting with," says Evelyn.
In addition to launching her own cannabis company, Evelyn has been working with social justice organizations like Cannabis for Black Lives, Last Prisoner Project, and Women's Prison Association, as well as Rose Mary Jane which focuses on equity in the cannabis industry.
In this episode of Rightnowish, we get deep with Evelyn on her journey from prison to the boardroom and her insights on re-entry.
Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.