In so many ways, laws are what keep society together. The rules that mark order. But they can also be deeply problematic. Consider that in some states bestiality is still legal, but smoking a joint isn’t.
That is the point of a new ad campaign from Jay-Z’s cannabis brand, Monogram. It uses black-and-white imagery and stark white text to point out the hypocrisy (and sometimes plain absurdity) of American drug policies.
Created by agency Mischief @ No Fixed Address, the campaign has eight digital and billboard ads. They feature photographs of people who have faced weed-related charges, alongside text that points out things that are still legal in states where marijuana is not—like marrying a cousin, practicing cannibalism, texting while driving, and, uh, getting busy in the barnyard.
The ad campaign is running in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Miami, and Washington, D.C., with plans to roll out in more cities in the next few weeks.
Sentenced to 15 years for a marijuana crime.
Sharing a prison with violent offenders who served less time for unspeakable crimes.
All while states slowly relaxed cannabis laws.
— Mischief @ NFA (@mischief_usa) March 1, 2021
Of course, cannabis laws have evolved dramatically over the past several years. Marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes in 35 states and recreational use in 15 states. But just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s equitable. In a statement, Jay-Z said:
Cannabis laws are out of date and disproportionately cruel and punishing when compared to the rest of the legal code. We still don’t have proper regulation for texting and driving in Missouri, but staying home and smoking weed will get you locked up. 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. Far too often we forget that these are real people whose everyday lives and futures have been affected by this outdated legislature—people like Bryan Rone, who can no longer pursue a career in sales because of a cannabis-related conviction in 2003.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 gap between those who are now profiting off legal cannabis and the communities disproportionally impacted by its criminalization is something Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen acknowledge in rolling out their own cannabis brand, Houseplant, stateside this week. “We’re very fortunate to be from Vancouver, a place that treated weed the way it did when we were kids, and the whole reason we’ve been so fortunate with this company is because of where we’re from and [being] able to cultivate this life around cannabis that other people haven’t,” Goldberg said. “There’s a responsibility that comes with that.”
“They really out here getting money like it’s nothing and there are people doing the same thing they want to lock up – mostly people of my color and that’s sick.” -Jamal pic.twitter.com/AVUbJTUDO3
— MONOGRAM (@monogramcompany) March 1, 2021
Steve Allan, CEO of Monogram owner the Parent Company, says part of his organization’s responsibility is to help correct the injustices of the war on drugs. In coming months, the Parent Company will be launching a social equity ventures program to give Black and other minority entrepreneurs equal opportunity for participation in the legal cannabis industry, identifying and funding cannabis business leaders who “are building value for their communities and diversity in our industry.”
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