Rapper Shawn Carter, AKA as Jay-Z, has been announced as the new Chief Brand Strategist of California cannabis chain #Caliva.
The chain, which recently raised $75 million from former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and football legend Joe Montana, announced that the rapper will play a crucial role in the outreach efforts and strategy for the brand. That includes focusing on the work of rehabilitation of former prisoners through advocacy, job training, and general employee and workforce development.
Jay-Z at Glastonbury — image via Wikimedia
The indicated strategy is an interesting one for a major brand, as the current scheduled federal status of cannabis still means that in many states people go to jail for cannabis offenses, while in others they may still have a criminal record despite marijuana having been already legalized in those states.
“Anything I do, I want to do correctly and at the highest level. With all the potential in the cannabis industry, Caliva’s expertise and ethos makes them the best partner for this endeavor. We want to create something amazing, have fun in the process, do good and bring people along the way.”
— Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter
Jay-Z, who was recently announced by Forbes as the first billionaire rapper, is also a known prison reform advocate and earlier this year announced together with rapper Meek Mill the founding of REFORM Alliance, an attempt to improve the criminal justice system in the USA. Previously, the 49-Years old star also co-produced a documentary about the Kalief Browder story, and has been outspoken on the War on Drugs, labeling it an “epic fail”.
It will be interesting to see how Caliva, and Jay-Z, will develop their future strategy and reintegration of former prisoners and whether they will be able to influence new states to expunge records with minor criminal marijuana records.
Like many celebrities, in recent years Jay-Z has invested in tech startups, one of his investments being in Uber. He isn’t the first to enter the legal cannabis niche but his collaboration with Caliva is eye-catching nevertheless.
According to Caliva CEO Dennis O’Malley, the rapper himself reached out to Caliva in order to join the cannabis brand, after an extensive search to find the ideal partner.
“For Jay-Z to seek out Caliva as a partner is humbling and confirms our mission of being the most trusted name in cannabis. To find that we were in complete alignment around our values and ethos was just a home run. We believe this partnership is unparalleled in this or any business and we could not be more pleased to be working with him and have him as our Chief Brand Strategist.”
— Dennis O’Malley, Caliva CEO
Whether the choice for Caliva, a widely known brand with fresh funding, is truly surprising is up for debate. With Snoop Dogg’s ongoing collaboration with Canopy — together with his personal friend Martha Stewart — and the rumored financial struggles of MedMen, there were not many top level options available which may have truly interested a freshly minted billionaire.
It is clear that the newly, and ever more legal, cannabis industry will continue to attract celebrities and even for the celebrities this will be a game they will play at the top level.
While we will undoubtedly continue to see always more strains named after, licensed, by celebrities, the more modern and influential stars will aim higher than going up in smoke and play the “nouveau rich” game in this exponentially growing financial sector with a possible potential which may eclipse the internet’s second decade of VC by large as slowly but surely legalization expands worldwide.
The participation of highly influential artists, athletes, and celebrities will no doubt also further contribute to the advocacy to #legalize-it.