For his legions of fans, Bob Marley was always more than a mega-selling pop star. He was a hero and a prophet, a dread-locked vision of peace, love and justice. Now, decades after his death in 1981, Marley’s iconic name and face will front something new: the first global brand of marijuana.
On Tuesday, in an exclusive segment on NBC’s TODAY, the Marley family and a Seattle-based private equity firm announced the creation of Marley Natural, “a premium cannabis brand rooted in the life and legacy” of one of marijuana’s most devoted sons.
The line will include pot-infused creams, accessories (like vaporizers in the style of e-cigarettes) and strains of “heirloom Jamaican cannabis,” inspired by the herb that Marley enjoyed in extravagant, finger-sized joints.
A true corporate brand is a major milestone in the ragamuffin world of legal cannabis, where most products still have juvenile names (like Alaskan Thunderf–k) and a sales machine that depends on bikini girls and graffiti markers.
By contrast Marley Natural will look like a modern consumer product, cleanly packaged and marketed with the help of the same agency that branded New Balance and Starbucks Coffee. The cannabis itself will be sold as “loose packed” buds, oils or concentrate, executives said. Sorry, folks, no pre-rolled joints.
“This is what the end of prohibition looks like,” said Brendan Kennedy, the CEO of Privateer Holdings, which owns Marley Natural and plans to run it out of a loft space on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “Bob Marley started to push for legalization more than 50 years ago. We’re going to help him finish it.”
In recent years the Marley family has licensed brands of coffee, audio equipment and a grab-bag of lifestyle goods. Some of those items—like “king-sized” rolling papers and shirts that say “Smoke Like a Marley”—are an obvious nod to Bob’s pharmacological pursuits. But this is the family’s first move into actual marijuana.