4/20 (the day dedicated to celebrating cannabis) is fast approaching… This year, more folks than usual have cannabis on the brain.
What was once an underground holiday for a niche audience of avid cannabis consumers is now known–and celebrated–by the masses. Its mass is surging from a low of 40 in September to 65 this week.
Why? Momentum for “legalizing cannabis” is surging, up from a low of 40 in January to 54 this month — spurred by New York becoming the 15th state to legalize recreational cannabis.
What’s behind the momentum?
- Mass is fueled by volume + awareness: New York will be one of the largest markets of legal cannabis in the US.
- Velocity is fueled by engagement + discussion & debate: New York will be one of the few states with laws ensuring the economic benefits of cannabis legalization are tied to racial equity.
- New York enacted a robust program that will reinvest millions of dollars of tax revenues from cannabis in minority communities ravaged by the decades-long war on drugs. 40% of the tax revenue from cannabis sales will be directed to minority communities. People convicted of marijuana-related offenses that are no longer criminalized will have their records automatically expunged. People with past convictions and those involved in the illicit cannabis market will be allowed & encouraged to participate in the new legal market.
One New York native, momentum master & mogul, in particular, that’s about to set the cannabis world ablaze? Jay-Z.
He already changed the champagne game, not to mention cognac, music streaming, and fashion. Now the rapper turned mogul-born Shawn Carter has rolled up his sleeves to roll out premium hand-rolled joints with his latest venture, Monogram. He’s using his clout to flip the script on the cannabis conversation and ensure he helps those that were incarcerated because of cannabis.
In this week’s Up & Down, we decode how Jay-Z is leveraging his own momentum to fuel momentum for Monogram & racial equity in the cannabis industry.
Not only is he upping the cool factor on an industry that’s going corporate as it becomes legalized… Jay-Z and his Monogram brand are combining the highest quality bud with education and social impact.
“The news of cannabis legalization in New York is incredibly exciting… It represents a long-overdue opportunity for New Yorkers, for the cannabis industry, and for social equity and social justice… I’ve seen firsthand the harm inflicted for generations against Black and minority communities by the war on drugs right here in New York.” — Jay-Z
As legal cannabis goes mainstream, it’s momentum masters taking unexpected approaches like Jay-Z that are breaking through.
Jay-Z is putting his foot in the door and using his platform & business experience for a purpose: to bring representation and reparations to those most affected by the war on drugs.
DISRUPTION: Jay-Z is challenging the disruption cannabis culture is going through — as the industry becomes legalized, mainstream, and even corporate, he’s using Monogram to ensure the culture is maintained.
Jay-Z’s latest Monogram campaign reflects that effort.
- The campaign, photographed by Hype Williams, was inspired by the late Slim Aarons, a photographer known for capturing portraits of the very rich and very white. The mid-century “shutterbug” became synonymous with pictures of the high society wealthy in extravagant settings of opulence including poolside mansion parties, ski resorts and more.
- Now, Jay-Z is turning those portraits on their heads in a new ad campaign for his cannabis line Monogram, using Slim Aarons as a muse for black representation.
- The photos were released on New York City billboards soon after New York legalized marijuana. “On the heels of legalization, seeing creativity like this becomes a natural part of the fabric of New York City only reinforces that cannabis has a right to exist within our customs, arts, and social institutions,” Jay-Z said in a statement. “New York’s decision to legalize is a victory for the entire industry, and I’m excited to have Monogram play a role in bringing that message to life in my own backyard.”
- “The perception around cannabis has shifted a lot since the 20th century,” Williams said in a press release. “If you were to ask me and my peers how we’d define the good life today, weed would definitely be a part of it. Whether we’re smoking to inspire creativity or to celebrate an achievement, cannabis has a rightful place in modern day culture. HOV has a vision for the industry that he’s bringing to life through MONOGRAM. His focus for this campaign was to showcase how beautifully cannabis fits into the good life today, and I am honored to be a part of it.”
INNOVATION: Jay-Z is applying his “top shelf” approach to a category not known for consistent quality.
He’s creating trust & respect for the cannabis industry by providing a premium product, a transparent process and the necessary education about cannabis cultivation.
- “Monogram marks a new chapter in cannabis defined by dignity, care and consistency. It’s a collective effort to bring you the best, and a humble pursuit to discover what the best truly means.”
- Process: Rather than simply defining its product by percentages, Monogram experts sample every strain to fully understand the effects of its distinctive mix of properties — from cannabinoids to terpenes. “The resulting sensory experience is then designated as either light, medium or heavy.”
- Education: DeAndre ‘De’ Watson, Monogram Culture & Cultivation Ambassador, said “Jay entering into the cannabis space is a game-changing moment. His goal is to create the best cannabis products possible while fostering a greater understanding and respect for cannabis culture and the cultivation process. He’s creating opportunities for people like me, who have decades of experience working with the plant, but haven’t been able to reap the benefits of the emerging legal market until now.”
POLARIZATION: Bull market or bubble? Monogram’s stock performance has watchers debating whether it’s high time to invest in cannabis.
Towards the end of 2020, the cannabis SPAC trend took off with two major deals:
- On November 24, 2020, Subversive announced a deal that would combine Caliva, Left Coast Ventures, and Jay-Z’s cannabis company MONOGRAM. This deal closed on January 15, 2021 and is the largest cannabis SPAC deal to close to date. The resulting issuer, The Parent Company, trades on the NEO, a recognized Canadian exchange for senior public companies and investment products.
- The second major deal of 2020 occurred on December 10, 2020, when Silver Spike announced a deal with Weedmaps, which would value the ultimate company at $1.5 billion. This transaction has not yet closed.
Why are SPACs trending in the cannabis industry? With wary investors and a minimal number of FDIC-insured bank lenders in the space, some experts believe cannabis entrepreneurs are running out of options to raise capital. SPACs create a unique opportunity to fill the current vacuum of capital in the cannabis industry — an industry with an upside that may be yet to come.Why are investors skeptical?
“A look at the [GameStop] stock chart should be cautionary,” Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Pablo Zuanic said. “That said, we continue to think the top US MSOs are attractively valued taking a long-term view, even though they will get some of the Canadian downdraft.”
STICKINESS: Monogram’s engaging “High Tales” video series shows that stars get high just like us, normalizing recreational use.
Whether funny or profound, everyone has a unique weed story. High Tales looks to the people in Monogram’s orbit for a storytelling series that focuses on a first cannabis experience, how relationships with cannabis form and evolve, and what life is like in the world of legal cannabis. This is an intimate trip down memory lane with a particularly engaging cast of characters across disciplines because it’s time we do our part to further normalize the recreational use of cannabis.
SOCIAL IMPACT: A major part of Jay-Z’s plan is social good, lifting up the people most negatively impacted by the war on drugs. In the new song “What it feels”, Jay-Z says: I’m sellin’ weed in the open, bringin’ folks home from the feds.
In addition to developing brands and business strategy, Jay-Z will also lead the company’s social justice program. The venture fund has been seeded $10 million and the company will give 2% of its net income each year in order to invest in Black and other minority-owned cannabis businesses
Earlier this year, Jay-Z launched a campaign to battle hypocrisy in Cannabis Laws — putting draconian rules in stark context. Billboards featured phrases like: “The war on drugs worked. If systemic racism was the goal”and “the legal term for bribing a politician is often called lobbying. The legal term for possession of weed is often called a felony.”
In each ad, stark white words overlay images of eight individuals charged with cannabis-related crimes.
“Cannabis laws are out of date and disproportionately cruel and punishing when compared to the rest of the legal code,” Carter says in a statement. “I created this campaign to amplify the voices of those who have been penalized for the very same thing that venture capitalists are now prospering from with the emerging legal cannabis market.”
“The disproportionate effects of the War on Drugs have been devastating, and we believe it is our responsibility to lay the stage to begin the process of righting the many wrongs against the Black and other minority communities,” says Steve Allan, chief executive of Monogram owner The Parent Company.
The Parent Company will fund a social equity venture initiative designed “to give Black and other minority entrepreneurs equal opportunity for participation in the legal cannabis industry,” Allan says. “Led by Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter and [Roc Nation CEO] Desiree Perez, this program will identify and fund the next generation of cannabis business leaders who are building value for their communities and diversity in our industry.”