“Smoking blunts was a daily routine, since 13” Biggie once famously rapped. But now his son C.J. is showing the public that marijuana use goes far beyond the typical Party and Bullshit of most rap lyrics.
C.J. Wallace is best known for playing the role of his iconic father in 2009's Notorious biopic. Now, ten years later, he’s taking another step in memorializing his dad. Wallace tells Esquire about his plans to help his father’s legacy live on through advocacy and de-stigmatizing marijuana use.
“Cannabis has sort of been in my family for as far back as I can remember,” he explains, “My youngest brother, Ryder, was diagnosed with nonverbal autism—my mom was always against using pharmaceuticals like Ritalin and opioids—so cannabis, CBD, was definitely an option we looked at and researched. We started giving him CBD gummies; as he’s gotten older, he loves the Jayden’s Juice product.”
His company, Think BIG, in collaboration with Lowell Herb Co., has released its first cannabis product: a pre-rolled, sun-grown California cannabis that’s been custom blended with Orange Sherbet, Banjo, and Rattlesnake Sour Diesel strains. They’ve named it The Frank White Creative Blend, a nod to Biggie’s “Frank White” alter-ego (inspired by the fictional mafia man in the film King of New York). The limited edition cannabis blend is currently available at LA’s Rose Collective and Sweet Flower for $40, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit California’s Prison Arts Project.
“I’ve always been inspired by my dad and his alter-ego, by the ghostly figure of Frank White,” He continues, “I’ve always wanted to play with that, and this was my chance to do it. A lot of people don’t really know this, but my dad actually went to jail a few times. His longest stint was about nine months. And that’s when he made his decision to take his writing, his craft more seriously… And that’s definitely a story I want to share with the world, just as a creative to be able to take yourself out of that darkness and come up with such beauty is amazing to me.”
As part of the William James Association, The Prison Arts Project was created in 1977 and works with professional artists to create long-term arts experiences for incarcerated people. As noted on their website:
“the program selects and hires professional visual, literary and performing artists to teach in California state prison facilities through Arts in Corrections, an innovative fine arts program developed in association with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California Arts Council.
Since 2013, WJA has been part of a team of California arts organizations that have revitalized AIC through a series of initiatives and pilot programs. As of 2017, each of California’s 35 prisons has an established fine arts program serving incarcerated students. Our organization sponsors arts programs that help prepare students for a successful return to their community through classes that reconnect them with their families, teach social and communication skills through theater and creative writing, and give participants opportunities to contribute to their community through the arts.
Research indicates that participants in the Prison Arts Project are less likely to have disciplinary problems while in prison, and are more likely to be successful upon parole. Our current research project suggests that art classes provide a safe haven for inmate artists to learn and create art with others, build bridges between races and cultural groups, and help students maintain connections with their family.
While much-needed prison programs like these are now supported in part by Think Big cannabis, the relationship between the prison system and the legal cannabis industry has remained complicated by inequity. The legal cannabis market has been widely criticized across the U.S. for putting massive amounts of money into the hands of the wealthy without accounting for restorative justice. Millions of People of Color have been jailed for selling, or even possessing, marijuana during its prohibition, even in petty amounts. The lasting effects of mass incarceration have been felt throughout families and communities nationwide.
And because it don’t take nothin’ but frontin’ for him to start something, Wallace openly calls out the industry for getting rich while turning a blind eye to injustice. C.J declares:
“…every other brand that’s out there, if they don’t have a criminal justice angle, they’re doing a huge disservice to everybody. Everybody has, or should have, a responsibility to speak on that and do as much as they can to correct those wrongs.”
It will be interesting to see just how socially-conscious and collaborative Wallace’s company will be in the coming months and years. They claim to be more than just a capitalistic company; this limited-edition Prison Arts partnership could be just one small offering towards the whole movement Wallace speaks of. According to their recent press releases they’re promoting marijuana as a medicinal tool for “creativity, contemplation, and healing while advocating for criminal justice reform”. Time will tell exactly how Big they’re thinking.
You can read the full Esquire interview here.