Bob Marley was buried in Jamaica 33 years ago with his guitar, a bible, and a marijuana joint. In the years since, his family has lent the Marley name and image to a bevy of goods and services—everything from coffee to music festivals, and even fried fish. The singer’s well-known affinity for marijuana, however, was a branding opportunity that had to be left unrealized; you can’t very well commercialize an illicit substance.
But now that marijuana restrictions in the US are loosening, the Jamaican musician who brought reggae to the world has become the figurehead of a company that aims to sell marijuana to the world. His descendants recently teamed up with a private equity firm to create Marley Natural, which will be based in New York and will start selling cannabis (and cannabis-related products) in late 2015.
The private equity firm, Privateer Holdings, said it is devoted exclusively to investments in legal marijuana. Privateer’s CEO, Brendan Kennedy, appeared with Marley’s children this morning on NBC’s Today Show to announce the launch of what Privateer is calling “the world’s first global cannabis brand.” According to NBC, Kennedy’s vision portends Marley Natural becoming “the Ben & Jerry’s of pot.”
Marley Natural products will be based on “heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains” inspired by Bob Marley’s personal preferences, according to a press release. There’s a social justice element built in, as well: ”Marley Natural’s business model and philanthropic initiatives will be built to ensure that families and communities who have been harmed by prohibition have the opportunity to benefit from the new, legal cannabis economy,” said the release.
Marley believed in marijuana as a spiritual herb with healing powers, and pushed for its legalization during his lifetime. High Times magazine wrote in 1976 that he smoked about a pound a week.
As recreational marijuana use becomes legal in more places, many view the sprouting of a large commercial industry as inevitable. Whether the path ahead is as straightforward as they think, the 2014 launch of Marley Natural will likely be a landmark.