States around the country — currently 36 in total — have legalized the use of marijuana. But the drug, which has had a complicated history for Black Americans, also has many social and health benefits that are finally getting mainstream appeal for mass market distribution. And Brooklyn’s own Jay Z is finally getting a stake in the very industry that has criminalized so many Black men — and flipping the narrative (for the culture). And we all know, what Jay touches becomes gold. 

In late 2020, JAY Z launched MONOGRAM, a premium cannabis brand in partnership with California-based company, Caliva. Among other titles, the billionaire rapper holds the title of chief brand strategist in the company, i.e. “chief curator of cool.” MONOGRAM, while cool and flashy for premium cannabis users, is not only recreational, it’s also beneficial, with cannabis being proven to relieve symptoms of pain, improving loss of appetite, and increasing energy.

Cannabis  — the cannabinoids THC and CBD — can be found in various forms, and the health benefits of cannabis are ever growing. “We see many customers coming to us looking to cannabis to address all too common health issues like sleep, pain or anxiety as well as an alternative to pharmaceutical products,” says Murphy Adams, Caliva’s Education and Training Manager. “More and more we have customers with serious conditions, and their health professionals have suggested that cannabis may ease their symptoms. Cannabis can also just be used for general wellness or to feel more relaxed and balanced, something we all need.”

Cannabis however, isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to overall health and wellness. “There is still so much to learn about cannabis and its impact, largely in terms of the benefits it can offer us,” says Adams. “While smoking anything can result in adverse health effects, the beauty of our dynamic and growing cannabis industry is that so many new form factors and product types are being made available as alternatives to inhalables for those who want that. We see a lot of customers who use cannabis in a wellness context turning to skin care/topicals, tinctures/sublinguals, and edibles.”

And though the benefits are apparent, MONOGRAM is also selling a lifestyle. Prices range from $40 to $70 for each product, and MONOGRAM’s products are placed in three categories: Light, medium, and heavy. And rather than the traditional strain names we’re all used to (Blue Dream, OG Kush, Pineapple Express, etc etc), MONOGRAM’s newly introduced strains are numbered: No. 88, No. 96, No. 70 and No. 01. 

“At MONOGRAM, we follow the mentality that when you cook for 5, the food tastes a lot different than when you’re cooking for 50,” says DeAndre ‘De’ Watson, MONOGRAM Culture & Cultivation Ambassador. Leveraging over 25 years of experience working in the cannabis space, Mr. Watson guides MONOGRAM’s expert growers in ensuring each plant receives personalized attention through a program of extended humidity control, post-harvest care, trimming, and flushing. 

“We are cooking for 5, meaning that we put incredible time and care into our cultivation process, highlighting the nuances between each batch to accurately tell you the story of every flower,” he says. “Our team of expert growers works closely with JAY on the cultivation and strain selection process for MONOGRAM’s portfolio, which starts with us putting together a taste profile for every strain. Our flower is then grown in small batches to ensure that it is treated with the respect and attention it deserves throughout every stage of the grow process, from soil to seed. Each week, we hand-check the flower nug by nug, only selecting the best harvests to productize. This precise control and constant monitoring allow our flower to reach its full potential as a superior smoke before producing it to exacting standards.”

JAY Z has stated that the reason he created MONOGRAM was to “give cannabis the respect it deserves by showcasing the tremendous hard work, time and care that go into crafting a superior smoke.”

And while many of us may be enjoying the benefits of the legalization of marijuana, it’s hard to forget the impact it’s had on our communities. Even in states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana possession, Black people are still more likely to be arrested for it than White people. “It’s no secret that the cannabis industry has been significantly impacted by political agendas, with BIPOC being disproportionately affected most,” says Watson.

“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.”

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