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Coming Soon: Marley Natural Brand Cannabis

Bill Weinberg

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Reaction continues to mount to news that Bob Marley’s name is to be further immortalized as a cannabis brand—not just a strain, but an actual brand name. Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based private equity firm that invests in the cannabis industry, has struck a deal with the estate of the late reggae superstar to launch a global marijuana brand, Financial Times reported last month.

The firm’s Marley Natural subsidiary will start marketing its line next year, including “heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains,” cannabis-infused skin creams and lip balms, and accessories such as vaporizers and pipes “based on those that Bob preferred.” (Oh? Did Bob vape? Really?) Privateer CEO Brendan Kennedy said he is interested in markets including the Netherlands, Uruguay, Canada, Spain and Israel.

The move is predictably excacerbating both the cultural and legal battles over the Rastafarian icon’s legacy, “The Marley Natural deal must be publicly opposed,” his old bandmate Bunny Wailer told the Jamaica Gleaner Dec. 3. “The ganja issue can only be dealt with as The Wailers collectively, and what the Marley estate has done since Robert Marley’s death is to wipe away the collective works, catalog, image and rights of The Wailers from public existence.” Speaking of the Marley family, he added:  “The Marley Natural brand deal has now spotlighted their selfish behavior.”

The move could exacerbate the cultural battles over the late Rastafarian icon’s legacy, as Britain’s Management Today notes. Marley’s estate brought in $20 million last year, putting him at number five on Forbes’ annual list of top-earning deceased celebrities—behind Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, but ahead of Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon. The family, however, has been embroiled over the years in legal battles with each other and with Marley’s Tuff Gong record label over control of his assets, image, name and music. The “first Third World superstar” died without a will.

Cedella Marley, the singer’s daughter, told BBC News that her father would welcome the move to immortalize his name as a cannabis brand. “My dad would be so happy to see people understanding the healing power of the herb,” she said.

Kennedy added that Marley was “someone who, in many ways, helped start the movement to end cannabis prohibition 50 years ago. It was just a natural fit between Bob Marley and this product. You know if you were to look for the most famous human being who ever walked the face of the earth related to cannabis, it would be Bob Marley.”

But we have to wonder how Bob would have felt about corporate branding of the sacred herb…

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