Come this time next year, dispensary shelves will have to make way for a new line of celebrity-branded marijuana strains.
In a 30-year licensing deal announced Tuesday, Bob Marley’s family has partnered with Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm focused on the cannabis industry, to create Marley Natural, a new marijuana brand with a portfolio of products including hemp-derived lotions and actual strains of weed. At launch, currently slated for late 2015, Marley Natural will likely feature six “heirloom” strains–all of them personal favorites of the late reggae legend–including Pineapple Skunk, Lamb’s Bread, and Chocolope.
“We really want the products to be rooted in Bob’s life and in his message, and be authentic to his Jamaican roots,” Privateer CEO Brendan Kennedy told Fast Company. “We’re doing everything out of respect for Bob and out of respect for his vision.”
Privateer and the Marley family–comprising the musician’s widow, 11 children, and 54 grandchild–first began talks about creating a premium cannabis brand in February of 2013. The project remained top secret, even at Privateer. “Up until three months ago, there were maybe six people who knew we were working on this,” said Kennedy. “Ninety-nine percent of our investors didn’t know–don’t know–we’ve been working on this project.”
Now that the cat’s out of the bag, Marley Natural is recruiting a team in New York City to run operations from its headquarters in New York City’s Bowery neighborhood. While working in secret, Privateer and the family helped create the Marley Natural brand and logo, which features a lion (an important symbol in the Rastafari religion) anchored by two leaves.
But plenty of logistical nightmares lie ahead–this will, after all, involve the growing, distribution, and selling of marijuana. Initially, Marley Natural will contract local growers, who will comply with state laws and the company’s own quality assurance processes–but Kennedy said the hope is that the brand will eventually oversee its own crop.
For its topical products, the company is looking to source its hemp from Europe and Canada, and produce the creams and lotions in the U.S. Ecommerce will play “an important part of the distribution model,” for the hemp-based products, Kennedy noted, declining to reveal their price points.
Already, the late artist’s family has licensed Marley’s likeness for a number of consumer products, including headphones, speakers, backpacks, watches, even herb-infused beverages. But when it comes to marijuana, some fans will argue it’s not just about the bottom line, pointing to the musician’s well-known spiritual relationship with what he affectionately referred to as “the herb.”
“When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself,” he famously said.
By slapping the Marley name to cannabis, the herb can also reveal plenty of green.