Marley Natural: A Family Venture in Entrepreneurship

It was a 70th birthday party Bob Marley would have appreciated. 

In his native Jamaica in February, hundreds gathered for a day of reggae music, including performances by several of his children, and a celebration of the man whose music and social mission have warmed the lives of so many. That same day, the Jamaican Senate voted to legalize cannabis, Marley’s beloved “herb,” and a delegation of American cannabis industry insiders joined the party, hashing out details of what will soon be the first global cannabis brand, Marley Natural. 


Marley Natural will be a multi-faceted line of products, including vaporizers and smoking accessories, topical oils and body products and, in states and countries where it is legal, cannabis strains. The brand is sanctioned by Marley’s survivors and instilled with Jamaican expertise and love of all things herb-related. 


“There are so many people in Jamaica, they love Bob Marley, they grew up with him all around them, both his music and his lifestyle, so this is a way to elevate that, elevate the brand, elevate the conversation about cannabis, which is something they have been experts in forever,” said Tahira Rehmatullah, General Manager of Marley Natural. 



A corporate partnership


When Marley died of cancer in 1981, he left behind a huge family, 11 children with seven different mothers. The family has long sold Bob’s name and likeness in products, from clothing to coffee, and continues to wage an international battle against bootlegging of his music and image. 

In 2013, with recreational cannabis legalized in Colorado and Washington, family members began talks with Privateer Holdings about a Marley cannabis brand. 


Said Rehmatullah, “We realized there were just a lot of similarities between the family’s beliefs and our beliefs. We both have a lot of respect for the environment, wanting to really professionalize the cannabis industry, social change, responsibility.”


In November, Privateer announced the 30-year licensing deal for Marley Natural. Privateer has since made headlines in the business world by drawing more than $80 million from mainstream investors. 


A range of products


Starting in late 2015, people in all 50 states will be able to purchase the Marley Natural line of body-care oils and topical creams, made with hemp seeds and containing Jamaican botanicals. Rehmatullah said in states where it is allowed, the company will also offer oils with THC and cannabidiol (CBD). 


Marley Natural will also release a line of cannabis accessories, such as vaporizers, water pipes, storage containers and rolling trays. 


For now, only a lucky few—or those willing to travel—will be able to enjoy the third product line: Cannabis flower. 


Local growers in the Jamaican spirit


During his lifetime, Marley made no secret of his love for “herb,” and this love will influence the cannabis put out by Marley Natural. 


Lamb’s Breath, a strain Marley often spoke of, will be a flagship product. Rehmatullah said the brand will also focus on strains like Chocolope and Pineapple Skunk, which she said are considered more native to Jamaica. 


While they would like to sell cannabis actually grown in Jamaica in time-honored traditions there, it is still illegal to transport it out of states where it has been legalized, so Marley Natural will work with growers in each state, incorporating Jamaican techniques learned by visiting the island and possibly bringing those growers into the U.S. as advisors.


In late 2015, Rehmatullah expects Marley Natural cannabis will be available in recreational stores in Colorado and Washington, followed by Oregon in 2016.


Rehmatullah hopes quality and consistency will set the herb apart from the many others in the row of jars in dispensaries.


In the spirit of the late Marley’s beliefs in equality and social justice, Marley Natural products will be made using sustainable construction methods, organic growing methods and fertilizers and support of charitable causes. 


“We are a brand with a very strong social conscience,” Rehmatullah said. “We’re working hard to develop how we’re sourcing products, what our workplace environment is like, to make sure they’re sustainable practices that are consistent with Bob’s lifestyle, with his mindset, that really contribute to natural well-being.”

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