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Marijuana Weed Cannabis

Marijuana startup with rights to Bob Marley name launches amid controversy


By Tony Connelly, Sports Marketing Reporter

February 5, 2016 | 4 min read

A marijuana startup has launched a line of weed strains named after reggae icon, Bob Marley after agreeing a 30-year licensing deal with the Marley family however the brand has come under fire from the singer’s former bandmates.

Marley Natural weed maker comes under fire

Marley Natural

Marley Natural, created by New York marijuana startup, has begun selling the branded marijuana across California dispensaries from today (5 February).

The company, which will also sell a range of natural beauty products and smoking accessories nationwide with the Marley brand name, was created in 2014 after receiving funding from Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based private equity firm that invests in marijuana businesses.

The group now plans to use the legendary musician’s name to strengthen its position in the fast growing marijuana industry.

Marley Natural will come in four strains of cannabis flower and oil — Marley Green, Red, Gold, and Black — each specially grown to elicit different effects in smokers.

Zack Hutson, Marley Natural spokesman, said the brand wanted to “help people understand the herb the way Bob did."

He added: "We're not only natural in how we source our products and how they're made; it's important for us to demonstrate to people that the herb can be a natural part of life, which was the way Bob viewed it"

Marley natural beauty products

The decision to use the Marley branding could backfire though. The startup has faced criticism for profiting off of Jamaican culture and being insensitive towards its history.

Mike Alleyne, a professor in the recording industry department at Middle Tennessee State University and author of an encyclopedia on reggae, also believes the company is ignoring the late singer’s prominent political morals which fundamentally conflict with the company’s decision to profit using his name.

Alleyne told the Verge: "Given Marley's anti-capitalist, anti-establishment identity, the idea of having a company that evokes the name of centuries-old pirates, and a very negative tradition of imperialist assault... sends a lot of the wrong messages."

He added: “I'm not sure if anyone involved in the whole process is thinking about it, but it's not a good conceptual foundation for this enterprise."

Marley’s former bandmates have also spoken out against the American company using his name and image to turn him into an advertising tool.

Reggae icon and former member of The Wailers, Bunny Wailer, told The Jamaica Gleaner that “the Marley Natural deal must be publicly opposed.”

He added: “Only a Jamaican company incorporating local stakeholders, the Rastafarian community, local ganja farmers, medical scientists and investors should be allowed to market Brand Jamaica ganja first-hand,"

The brand joins a line of celebrity endorsed marijuana brands including Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, and Wiz Khalifa, who are all using their name to make waves in the lucrative legalised market. Last year the legal cannabis industry generated $5.4bn in sales and that figure is estimated to reach $21.8bn by 2020.

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