Rappers are campaigning for cannabis reform with their weed brands

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Elijah C. Watson

Elijah Watson is Okayplayer’s News & Culture Editor. When…

By joining the ever-growing marijuana business, rappers have used their cannabis business to tackle the wrongs of the war on drugs against blacks.

“I was charged with owning a pot for about one gram and I’m not allowed to get my green card,” says a man named Hamant in a video titled “Hypocrisy Stories”.

The video is for JAY-Z’s The cannabis brand Monogram contrasts with the brand’s other, more popular “High Tales” video series, in which artists like Jadakiss, NORE and Tinashe tell light-hearted – and often humorous – stories about their weed experiences. “Hypocrisy Stories” addresses the hypocrisy of marijuana law in the United States, from Hamant’s charge of possession to a man named Jamal tackling the double standards of people benefiting from the booming marijuana business while law enforcement agencies across the country persist colored people imprison for sale.

In addition to being touted as a luxury cannabis brand, Monogram is using its platform to correct some of the flaws of the failed American war on drugs while advocating cannabis reform and getting blacks to participate in marijuana profitability as they do Land continues to be legalized. But it’s not just Monogram doing this – from Method Man’s TICAL to Lil Wayne’s GKUA Ultra Premium – a handful of rapper-founded weed brands grapple with these issues in a variety of ways.

Black entrepreneurs made up just 4.3 percent of all cannabis entrepreneurs, according to a 2017 survey by the Marihuana Business Daily. Whites made up 81 percent of business owners. The discrepancy is due not only to the fact that blacks do not have the same resources as their white counterparts, but also to laws that largely discriminate against blacks and other people of color compared to whites. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union published a report that found that blacks are 3.64 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though they both use cannabis at “roughly equal” rates. Even if states continue to legalize and decriminalize marijuana racial differences, the ACLU notes that there were more marijuana arrests in 2018 than in 2015, despite several states having legalized or decriminalized weed in the meantime.

For those trying to obtain a cannabis business license, a marijuana possession conviction may disrupt the process and postpone or potentially tone down attempts to legally use weed. For these rappers-founded and rappers-owned cannabis brands like JAY-Zs Monogram, the deal not only adds much-needed diversity in the marijuana industry, but is also used to bring other minorities into the industry.

In March, The Parent Company – a California-based cannabis company that Monogram is a part of – announced it was funding a Social Equity Ventures program “to give black and other minority entrepreneurs equal opportunities to participate in the legal cannabis industry “. Led by JAY-Z (who also serves as the parent company’s chief visionary officer) and Desiree Perez, CEO of Roc Nation, the program will “identify and fund the next generation of cannabis business leaders who will bring value to their communities and create diversity in our industry. ”

Originally funded with $ 10 million in funding – plus an annual contribution of two percent to the parent company’s net income – the program focuses on BIPOC entrepreneurs negatively affected by the war on drugs and supports both early-stage and already operating ones Companies on everything from mentoring and training to supplier and wholesale agreements. As part of the program, The Parent Company also plans to invest in and work with BIPOC’s own cultivators, brands, dealers and retailers to build an inclusive supply chain. The program will officially start in the coming months. Outside of the program, the company will contribute to nonprofits advocating advocacy, criminal justice reform, workforce development and entrepreneurship support.

As Monogram fights the war on drugs and advocates cannabis reform through its campaigns and social justice program, brands like Lil Wayne’s GKUA have partnered with nonprofits like the Last Prisoner Project (LPP) to do so.

In February, the two launched a joint campaign called “Share The Love,” which instructed Instagram users to post a picture on their feed and enjoy cannabis with a loved one. For every post shared during the campaign, GKUA donated one dollar directly to LPP. The money was used to free prisoners who were incarcerated for non-violent cannabis offenses.

“GKUA is all about music and cannabis, and with the end of the federal ban inevitable and access expanding, artists are more open about how cannabis inspires their work and is part of their lives, “the company said in a statement. “We embrace these social changes and the many conversations around social justice as we grow as a cannabis and lifestyle brand.”

According to a spokesman for GKUA, the brand has already donated a few hundred dollars from the campaign and “is poised to increase that number to thousands in the coming months, with larger projects in the works.”

Similar to GKUA, Saucey Farms & Extracts – a cannabis brand co-founded by Jim Jones – has also partnered with nonprofits to discuss the need for criminal justice reform. In a 2020 interview with Bazinga, co-founder Alex Todd said that Saucey regularly donates to the REFORM Alliance, which aims to transform the criminal justice system. Todd told Okayplayer that he’s not only using REFORM for what it’s trying to do, but also for the people who are part of the organization, rapper Meek Mill and Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and executive chairman of Fanatics Michael Rubin is co-chair of the REFORM Alliance.

“Reforms in general are very important to Saucey and have a huge role in my heart,” said Todd. “There are people who wear suits who have never spent a day in this shop. There are around 40,000 prisoners per plant in jail when people in a boardroom are wearing suits and planning how to earn billions of dollars for it. So it feels kind of unfair. “

Although Saucey is a relatively new company (it was founded in 2019), Todd expressed the importance for the cannabis brand to support cannabis reform when they joined the marijuana industry, adding that in addition to donating to the REFORM Alliance will also be working with 40 Tons – a premium black cannabis, clothing and accessories brand based in LA.

Hip-hop has played a vital role in normalizing cannabis use and has helped dispel the assumptions and fears that people projected onto the drug that Todd also spoke to.

“You must credit the pioneers of this stuff – Cypress Hill, Snoop [Dogg] – Some of the people who were on the front lines showing it and weren’t afraid to include it in their videos and songs, ”he said. “Cannabis and hip-hop have always been synonymous.”

Hip-hop has played an important role in destigmatizing and normalizing marijuana use. For some of these rappers and their cannabis brands, their growing businesses are an extension of that. Not only do they show the importance and need for black and other people of color to be integrated into the legal marijuana industry, but they are also helping to redefine the future of what marijuana laws will be like.

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Banner Photo Credit: Robert Kamau / GC Images; Frazer Harrison / Getty Images for EA Sports Bowl at the Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest; Frazer Harrison / Getty Images for Roc Nation