After dipping his toes in the cannabis industry last summer, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is officially launching a cannabis brand.

The wheels to get the Monogram line going started moving last July when Carter joined Caliva as their Chief Brand Strategist. This is his first official product collaboration with the company. Caliva is without a doubt one of the biggest cannabis entities in the state. In addition to their own dispensaries, many other shops are trying to scoop up as much Alien OG and Z-Cube as possible. The pair of $50 eighths they grow are both a massive success in the price bracket right under the top shelf.

So at the very least we are confident the weed won’t suck, but where it ranks in the competitive celebrity pot marketplace is yet to be seen. Caliva certainly caught lightning in a bottle when they popped that pack of 3rd Gen Family Z-Cube seeds that went on to win awards, so who knows what secret phenos they may have in store for the line.

It takes 10 months to get a strain production-ready after the test runs for a big cannabis company. For all we know, Jay-Z may have had first dibs on Caliva’s heat since last July, found something crazy around New Year’s, and here we are.

Monogram flowers currently in production. (Photo courtesy of Monogram)

Another good reason for Jay-Z to team up with Caliva, even if he wasn’t part of the company, is because it’s vertically integrated. Only cannabis companies that started before Summer 2016 were fully able to integrate between their grow, distribution and harvest. This was meant to give the OGs the best shot against the wave of people attempting to enter the industry, but a lot of those future surfers just started companies ahead of the deadline too. Some people started companies just to flip their vertical possibilities to people who didn’t pull the trigger fast enough. So Jay-Z working with someone who can pump his weed from seed to sale is a lot more convenient for him than a farm that would be at the mercy of the general distribution system regardless of the name on the jar.

When announcing the brand’s launch this afternoon, the company noted, “With its careful strain selection, meticulous cultivation practices and uncompromising quality, MONOGRAM seeks to redefine what cannabis means to consumers today. In an effort to provide a more tailored customer experience, the brand will also launch through a best in class e-commerce platform dedicated exclusively to its singular product line.”

But what does this mean? According to the website, where it went into a bit more detail than the press release, that plan is built on whoever is growing the pot’s experience, small batches and a hand finish.

There is some give and take when you talk about small batches. I’ll be the first to tell you a lot of the best pot in the world comes from one guy with less than a 15 light setup. Quality doesn’t often scale up with cannabis cultivation, and when it does, those people tend to dominate the marketplace.

That being said, those boutique grows can only pump out so much pot. When I think of Caliva’s operation, it’s hard for me to swallow the term small batch because it’s more of a small batch within the scale of the massive operation they have going. But it’s good pot.

Photo courtesy of Monogram

Hand finishing can be a loaded term. When I hear it, I hope it’s meant to represent cannabis that was chopped by hand, dried by hand, trimmed by hand and finally cured in optimal conditions before being placed in jars, again, by hand. I saw one of the distribution companies up north using a machine where the weed dropped 15 feet in the process of getting to the eighth jar. The company told me it was air-cushioned, but I looked at them Maury-style as I pointed out all the keef built up on the machine’s surface. Due to the trauma of that afternoon, I’m all about hand packaging if you’re charging more than $45 an eighth.

According to the website, “Monogram has assembled a board of cannabis experts who grade and select every flower by hand. These luminaries have developed a program of extended humidity control, post-harvest care, trimming and flushing that guarantees our finished product is the best it can be.” That leaves a bit of room for interpretation for just how hands-on the rest of production is, but it certainly seems to be trending in the right direction.

So now we wait to see what Monogram will put into a jar, but in the meantime the 2020 wave of musicians entering the cannabis industry has been the most A-list crop yet. First, we talked to Rick Ross in the spring about his collaboration with Cookies, and then more recently Carlos Santana chatted with us on his Mirayo line.

While it’ll be tough to top 2020’s biggest musical additions, according to industry insiders we may have to add another seat at that table in the months to come. We’ll keep you posted.

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