By Dante Jordan
Evelyn Lachapelle was born in Oakland, raised in Oakland, went to school in Oakland, and then college in Los Angeles before moving back to Oakland. She is as homegrown as a homegrown Californian could be. LaChapelle started college at Santa Monica College, and ultimately graduated with an Entrepreneurship degree from Loyola Marymount University in 2012. She grew up with hopes of pursuing theater and acting, and is the mother of a wonderful 11-year old daughter.
“My involvement in the conspiracy was in 2009, my second year at Loyola. I met my co-defendant, Corvain Cooper. He’s involved in this cannabis [business]. They are shipping cannabis from California to North Carolina, and sending money back Western Union,” Evelyn says of the crime that would cost her, and her family, 87 months of her life.
In 2009, LaChapelle met Corvain Cooper, and began allowing him to deposit and withdraw cannabis money from her bank account. This lasted for 9 short months before she dissociated from Cooper, got married, had her first child, and began her attempt at the Great American Life. Then, four years later in May 2013, her world was flipped upside down. “ I graduated from Loyola and actually did not see Corvain again until we were in the courtroom.”
After her parents’ neighbors reported her Nissan 370z as a suspicious vehicle, Evelyn was pulled over, and discovered she had a warrant in North Carolina. The game that she retired from playing had come back for revenge. For simply allowing her bank account to be used for illegal funds, Evelyn, and her co-defendants Natalia Wade, and Corvain Cooper were booked for conspiracy with intent to sell over 100 kilos of marijuana; money laundering; and structuring financial transactions to avoid the IRS. “We were tried in North Carolina, where our jury members were not our peers. It took them almost two years to sentence; me and Natalia both received 87 months, Corvain Cooper received life.”
Today, after spending five years in federal prison, Evelyn LaChapelle is out on probation and seeking a smooth reentry into this world. As a convicted felon, it hasn’t been easy. She was fired from working with a hotel job after a coworker googled her name, then reported her story to Human Resources. She’s worked with a cannabis infusion technology company, but was laid off due to COVID budget cuts. Even with those jobs, she had to work a second job waitressing just to make ends meet. When thinking of those times, Evelyn couldn’t help but think “I’m sitting on my first [High Hopes] panel with Al Harrington, Steve DeAngelo, and I don’t even have money for groceries. How am I sitting on this panel with real money, and then I gotta make sure I’m going to get back to my waitressing shift to cover my gas?,” she says of the financial struggles at a time when the weed industry is so invested in telling stories like hers.
Evelyn now operates as a Reentry Coordinator for Last Prisoner Project; but the biggest focus is launching her luxury cannabis accessories brand: Eighty Seven.
Eighty Seven is a luxury accessories brand named for Evelyn’s 87 month sentence for a nonviolent first offense, and made to honor all of Evelyn’s favorite smoking devices. “Accessories were a big part of my consumption, I was the kid in college with all the gadgets, I'm the blunt-doctor, the fancy grinders, all of that. So wanting to create an accessory line for those people, that live off the gadgets, but also creating a space in the industry for Black women, for felons.”
Evelyn’s biggest challenge with Eighty Seven is raising the money to launch the brand. She initially funded the brand and product designs with her own $18,000, but having lost employment, she can’t continue the launch on her own. She made a GoFundMe, but the site took it down because Eighty Seven is a cannabis business. LaChapelle is now seeking investment for such costs as attorneys, graphic designers, and specifically web designers to help bring Eighty Seven to life, and most importantly, grab a slice of the billion dollar cannabis pie her life helped create.
“In my opinion, the entire industry making billions is built off the backs of those who did it illegally. There would be no legal industry had not folks been doing it illegal for the last 60 years. There would be no market for it, no one would’ve been smoking it, no one would’ve been consuming it.” - Evelyn LaChapelle
You can contact Evelyn on Instagram @EightySeven_Months for more information on how you can contribute to the Eighty Seven, and Evelyn LaChapelle’s successful reentry into the free world.