Plenty of ground has been broken since Washington and Colorado became the first states to make the sale and recreational use of marijuana legal earlier this year. We've seen the first medical marijuana ad on television, the first rules governing how banks handle the money coming from dispensaries, and even the first weed publishing vertical at an established newspaper. Now the world's first international marijuana brand is being created — and it will use Bob Marley's likeness to promote it.
According to The Guardian, Marley's family is working with private equity firm Privateer Holdings to create a company called Marley Natural. Its focus will be on distributing "heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains" of marijuana, but will also offer other things like creams and accessories emblazoned with the company's branding and the reggae star's name. Though the company will be rooted in New York City — where marijuana is only decriminalized at the moment — the plan is to grow, distribute, and sell it in areas where the plant is legal by the end of 2015. The other branded products will be available worldwide.
The move would likely increase the already staggering amount of money that has been posthumously made in Marley's name — the music icon's likeness has already been used on so many things like shirts and bags that last month Forbes ranked him as the fifth-highest paid dead celebrity, earning his family an estimated $20 million over the last year alone. Michael Jackson topped that list with earnings in the area of $140 million, but considering the number of states legalizing marijuana and the support shown in surveys about the acceptance of legalization (like this one from the Pew Research Center), there's a good chance that gap would decrease.
Marley is already the fifth-highest paid dead celebrity
That's not even considering the amount of money involved in counterfeited Marley merchandise, too. In 2011, Billboard magazine ran a cover story called "The Business of Bob Marley" which theorized that the unlicensed usage of Marley's likeness had generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue over the years. Aligning Marley's official likeness with an international marijuana brand would not only make obvious cultural sense, but could also help reign in some of that lost money. As Chief Executive of Privateer Holdings Brendan Kennedy told The Guardian, "Partnering with us is a way of protecting his image."
While fans will have wait to get their hands on the pop culture pioneer's pot, the company has launched a website where users can do things like read up on what specific products will be offered, watch interviews with his family, and participate in the growing conversation about marijuana legalization.