Jay-Z’s new pot brand targets the borders of legal/illegal states in first campaign
Of the 11 states where recreational cannabis use is legal, 10 of them are contiguous to at least one state where it is not; the exception being Alaska, which of course borders Canada, where pot is legal federally. Theoretically, if you light a joint in Illinois, you could be fined mid-burn if you happen to step into Indiana.
A new pot brand backed by Jay-Z, called Monogram, is seizing on this inconsistency with a campaign that involves parking mobile billboards along the borders of legal/illegal states. The message, “Here Cannabis is legal. Enjoy responsibly,” will greet viewers as they enter legal states.
People entering illegal states will see “Here cannabis is illegal. Avoid the bookings.” That last line refers to criminal arrests.
Billboards will be parked at the following borders for two weeks (legal states listed first): Oregon/Idaho, Colorado/Wyoming, Colorado/Kansas, Illinois/Wisconsin, Nevada/Idaho, Washington/Idaho and Michigan/Wisconsin. These seven borders were chosen because they divide states with “the most starkly opposing regulations—so the least progressive states bordering the most progressive—in order to best illustrate that a single state line can make a world of difference,” according to a Monogram representative.
The media buy was handled by Quan Media Group, which specializes in outdoor advertising.
The campaign launch is timed with the 50th anniversary of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which classified cannabis as a Schedule I drug, which the U.S. Department of Justice-run Drug Enforcement Administration defines as having a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” (LSD shares the same classification.) Pro-cannabis factions have long decried the law as discriminatory and an example of the failed war on drugs.
“The lasting effects of this law have reverberated through the past half-century, leading to injustices including mass incarceration for cannabis-related offenses,” Monogram said in a statement. “Progress has been made recently with states’ individual legalization efforts, but cannabis continues to be stigmatized by political agendas and the arbitrary borders that still demarcate who can benefit from it, whether that’s through entrepreneurship or the positive effects of its use.”
Monogram, which launched last week, is a joint venture with Caliva, a 5-year-old California-based cannabis company. Jay-Z was named chief brand strategist for Caliva in 2019.The brand’s first campaign shows that the hip-hop mogul, at least from the outset, is taking a serious tone with the brand’s marketing approach, avoiding the kind of frivolous ad efforts deployed by some other pot brands.
The effort comes a week before Election Day, where recreational pot legalization will be on the ballot in New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota. As Roll Call notes, only one of the states, New Jersey, is reliably Democratic. That means approval from the redder states will further legalization momentum that has begun to cross political boundaries. In a poll last year, Gallup found that 66 percent of Americans support legalization.
The Monogram representative says that while the campaign does not have “an explicit focus on the upcoming elections/legalization ballot measures,” the “election and political climate do make the subject relevant for consumers now.”
Jay-Z in a statement kept the focus on the federal law: “For so long, cannabis culture has been marred by the effects of the Controlled Substances Act and stigmatized by political agendas. While there has been progress, as we launch Monogram, we felt it was imperative that we call out the arbitrary borders that still demarcate who can benefit from cannabis, whether that’s through business or the positive effects of its use.”