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JAY-Z’s new Monogram cannabis unboxed and reviewed

I got 99 problems but JAY-Z’s weed ain’t one.

The 22-time Grammy-winning rapper debuts in California’s adult-use marijuana market this year with a premium-priced luxury weed brand—Monogram.

The actual herb quality varies and the price point attracts haters. But JAY-Z is a dime bags-to-riches American icon. He’s New York royalty and the owner of Roc Nation.

Beyonce’s husband commands legions of fans with cash and humble dreams to buy up not only the weed but the backstory, and even fresh stock in the company.

What we reviewed

So fresh and so clean-clean: Monogram makes a serious first impression. (David Downs/Leafly)

This January, Leafly reviewed:

  • 2 grams of the “No. 03” flower ($40+tax)
  • 2 grams of the “No. 01” flower ($40+tax)
  • a 1.5-gram “handroll” ($50+tax)
  • And the No. 96 “loosies” pre-roll 4-pack ($40)

The loosies were mediocre, the handroll and No. 01 flower came out satisfactory, and the No. 03 flower took the throne. All of it was a serviceable first effort from a celebrity brand.

Monogram’s naming system

Grown indoors in San Jose, CA, Monogram eschews strain names and THC scores. Instead, strains become numbers and potency is either “light,” “medium,” or “heavy.”

As a consumer, this is not helpful.

The No. 01 seems like an OG Kush and the No. 03 resembles an exotic Cookies cross. But how do lovers of OGs and Gelatos find those on shelves?

The Leafly Strain of the Year 2020 is—Runtz!

It’s just like wine: Cannabis strain parentage brings along an audience. Monogram jettisons that brand value.

Also, people like their THC scores. Yes—some lab fudge scores. Yes—THC does not tell the whole story, but it’s better than nothing. Maybe label it a “No. 01, medium,” but stick the details on social media, or something.

Monogram No. 01 details

Monogram No 1 close up shows quality. (David Downs/Leafly)
Monogram No. 1 close up shows quality. (David Downs/Leafly)

Anyhoo—the No. 01 medium smelled like an OG cross, and looked, tasted, and felt like one: a hybrid body-buzzing, chatty, sensory-enhancer. Not Watch the Throne-level, but solid, A-grade indoor. Respect.

Monogram No. 03 details

Monogram No. 3 could be Kush Mints. (David Downs/Leafly)

The “No. 03, heavy” does earn the throne.

It looked icy and an exotic white-green-purple, with a complex, sweet, cake, and fuel smell. The No. 03 nugs felt hyper-dense and powdery with trichomes. The ground aroma hit spicy, sweet, scrumptious, and cherry. It had a cherry ice cream taste and moderately heavy effects with crazy appetite stimulation.

The No. 03 earns the title of “luxury,” and you pay for it—$40 plus tax for two grams.

Monogram 1.5-gram handroll details

The Monogram handroll is a bat. (David Downs/Leafly)
The Monogram handroll is a bat. (David Downs/Leafly)

You’ll feel Shawn Carter’s style in the black handroll carrying case and the hand-crafted fatty inside.

Big and black, the size impresses. It conjures the doinks that pot growers roll with pounds sitting around. “Oh, you fancy, huh?”

The downside: Half the terpenes—the aromatic molecules that give the bud its character—had left the building. This pre-roll still smelled better than the industry average, but that’s not saying much.

US cannabis harvest price report 2020

Signs of high quality: Nugs, not dry shake, went into this joint, and the flower wasn’t machine-ground. The dry hit tasted mild, piney, and lemony. It burned fine and pulled fine—inoffensive and serviceable in every way.

Real weed heads don’t pay $50 for 1.5 grams, as stoners can roll their own. However, this’ll make a great gift for the college buddy you listened to The Black Album with. Sales data show a growing percentage of customers willing to pay $80 and up for an eighth-ounce of weed.

Monogram loosies No. 96 details

Monogram loosies No 88 (Courtesy Monogram)
Monogram loosies No. 88 four-pack (Courtesy Monogram)

Here we’ve arrived at the weakest link, and it’s still not bad. The No. 96 loosies are four small joints each in a black case—great for a spaced beach meet-up. Folks can smoke their own, ‘cus don’t pass that shit right now.

Sadly, the terps here were industry-standard M.I.A.: missing in action. The joint tube didn’t harbor any great smells, the weed smoked neutral, like the usual house pre-rolls around the Bay. It wasn’t harsh or bad-tasting, just forgettable.

The story behind the bud

But here’s the thing: When you buy and smoke Monogram, you’re not just buying herb, you’re also buying a story. The brand garnered mentions on Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Instagram features by Jadakiss.

Carter started working with major California licensee Caliva in July 2019. He’s Monogram’s Chief Visionary Officer, with a reported 50% stake in the brand.

Both Caliva, Monogram, and a dozen-plus brands now reside in shell company “The Parent Company.” They’re aiming for the crown of “Largest publicly traded cannabis company in California.”

Selling weed, and stock

Look beyond the trees—this is a paper play. The Federal Reserve’s interest rates make money nearly free, and amateur day traders feel frothy.

Not only can you buy JAY-Z’s weed, you can buy securities in The Parent Company’s parent company, Subversive Capital Acquisition Corp. Subversive is a so-called blank-check company (called a SPAC) and it explicitly aims to consolidate or roll up cannabis brands in California, and beyond:

  • Subversive raised $75 million on the Canadian exchange NEO
  • JAY-Z got 5 million shares of The Parent Company, while Roc Nation gets $25 million in stock and a $7.5 million annual fee
  • The four-month-old “SBVCF” security also trades in the US
  • Entertainers Rihanna, Meek Mill, Yo Gotti, and DJ Khaled are reported investors

According to the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 14., early SPAC investors like JAY-Z carry little risk and can take major profits.

7 Cannabis-Related Jay Z Lyrics We Can All Relate To

“It’s a free lunch—there’s no way around it,” New York University assistant law professor Michael Ohlrogge told the WSJ.

And late investors end up holding the bag. Instagram commenters talk up SBVCF, but buyer beware: this is an “over-the-counter,” four-month-old stock—untested and volatile.

All of which is to say: Your relationship to Monogram will color your enjoyment of it.

In one corner, cash-strapped, legacy growers reflexively hate the new competition. In the other corner, amateur stock pickers get high on their own supply.

(Disclosure: I own zero stock in or positions on SBVCF; I lost my own 401(k) password.)

The bottom line

Monogram isn’t for true players, but the true players are disappearing—melting icebergs in the warming sea of legal weed.

Mainstream Grammy-watchers get to feel fancy with Monogram this winter, and Jigga’s partner Caliva stands to deliver.

Caliva processed 1.5 million legal weed transactions in California in 2020 alone. Monogram is currently sold out. You can’t knock this hustle.

Would you smoke JAY-Z’s trees? Holler in the comments below.

David Downs's Bio Image
David Downs

Leafly.com News Senior Editor David Downs is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author who has covered cannabis products and policy since 2009. Downs was the first cannabis editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he founded GreenState.com. Downs is the co-author of the best-selling crop science book Marijuana Harvest (2017) by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. His current monthly columns include Leafly Buzz (focusing on West Coast flower news) and Leafly HighLight (which profiles a top 200 strain in the US.) He lives and grows in San Francisco, CA.

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