Features On the Upswing

Up in Smoke

Courtesy of Monogram

Monogram, the cannabis brand founded by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, launched a nationwide awareness campaign focused on cannabis law. The series draws attention to the hypocrisy of current regulations governing cannabis throughout the United States, with what Monogram calls “shockingly factual” headlines set against the backdrop of eight striking portraits of individuals who have been charged for cannabis-related offenses.

Forty-five years after the onset of the War on Drugs, Monogram’s campaign highlights the lack of progress made in drug policy, along with the outsized consequences still facing those who have been victimized by its lasting effects across the U.S.

“Cannabis laws are out of date and disproportionately cruel and punishing when compared to the rest of the legal code,” said Carter, who has been open about his personal history with selling drugs. “We still don’t have proper regulation for texting and driving in Missouri, but staying home and smoking weed will get you locked up.”

As demonstrated by the results of the 2020 election, more states are moving toward the legalization of marijuana and cannabis products as voters and lawmakers recognize the potential economic and wellness benefits the plant can provide. However, while some progress has been made, cannabis continues to be stigmatized by political agendas that demarcate who can benefit from it. The Monogram campaign aims to shed light on just how antiquated these regulations are by juxtaposing them with far more divisive realities, depraved vices or dangerous transgressions, from cannibalism to flame-throwing, each of which is still permitted in the eyes of local lawmakers in different parts of the U.S.

“One of the founding principles of The Parent Company was to foster social equity in cannabis,” said Steve Allan, CEO of The Parent Company, of which Monogram is a subsidiary. “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.”

The murals, billboards, mobile ads and postings are on display across Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; New York City; Chicago, Illinois; Washington D.C. and Miami, Florida, among others.

“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,” Carter said. “Far too often, we forget that these are real people whose everyday lives and futures have been affected by this outdated legislature — people like Bryan Rone, who can no longer pursue a career in sales because of a cannabis-related conviction in 2003.”

The campaign’s depictions of real people negatively affected by the War on Drugs underscore that there is still significant work to be done to repair the injustices of its past. Beyond high-impact static visuals, the campaign also includes video testimonials from its eight featured individuals, offering each the chance to share their firsthand experience with inequitable punishment for cannabis offenses in the U.S. This footage takes viewers through the subjects’ personal dealings with the criminal justice system, speaking to issues like profiling and excessive charging. Each participant contributes details of how their life has been impacted by unjust policing practices with irreversible consequences, ranging from financial penalties to incarceration.

“The Parent Company has funded a social equity ventures program to give Black and other minority entrepreneurs equal opportunity for participation in the legal cannabis industry,” Allan continued. “Led by Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter and Desiree Perez (CEO of Roc Nation), 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. The social equity ventures program will officially launch in the coming months. … We are proud of Monogram’s ground-breaking efforts to address such an important issue.”

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