Hip-hop’s first billionaire is making his way into the local cannabis industry.
Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z—rapper, producer, businessman, philanthropist and husband to Queen Bey—announced last week that he’ll be teaming up with Caliva, a burgeoning San Jose-based company that grows, harvests and sells its own cannabis products. The musician joins another high-profile backer: former NFL quarterback Joe Montana, who became a Caliva investor earlier this year.
Founded in 2015, Caliva boasts a 150,000-square-foot facility that features a cultivation site and retail storefront. The dispensary employs more than 600 employees statewide, including budtenders, delivery drivers and gardeners.
Earlier this year, Caliva raised $75 million from a group of investors that, in addition to Montana, included former Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz.
According to recent press announcements, Jay-Z will adopt the title of “chief brand specialist” for the company, a position that emphasizes marketing and branding.
As part of the new partnership, Caliva and Jay-Z promised to promote the cannabis equity movement. The company said it will aim its advocacy on minorities who were criminalized before legalization and now struggle to reap the benefits of the newly sanctioned industry.
“He could have picked any dispensary, any company, but he chose Caliva because we care about accessible cannabis for everyone,” said Blake Peckham, the company’s retail operations manager. “Jay-Z chose to partner with us because our values aligned with his, specifically Caliva’s commitment to people who are returning from incarceration.”
In a press statement, Jay-Z echoed that message.
“Anything I do, I want to do correctly and at the highest level,” he said. “With all the potential in the cannabis industry, Caliva’s expertise and ethos make them the best partners for this endeavor. We want to create something amazing, have fun in the process, do good and bring people along the way.”
This isn’t the first time Jay-Z has trained his attention on social justice.
In 2017, he linked up with fellow hip-hop artist Meek Mills to create The Reform Alliance after the latter’s re-imprisonment. One of Carter’s goals with Caliva is to give former inmates access to job training, as well as raise awareness and advocate for equity within the cannabis movement.
William Armaline, a member of San Jose’s Cannabis Equity Working Group, said he appreciates Jay-Z’s dedication to equity for historically marginalized populations such as people of color, women and the queer and trans community.
“We absolutely welcome the support,” said Armaline, who teaches sociology and runs the Human Rights Collaborative at San Jose State University. “We’re an inclusive group in terms of membership and who we work with, so we’re happy to have support from anyone who offers it. We want to do the right thing, and it’s clear that they [Jay-Z and Caliva] are very much interested in doing the right thing as well.”