By Taylor Soper
Throughout the past century, there are few people that publicly supported the legalization of marijuana more than the late Bob Marley. “When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself,” the reggae legend famously said.
Marley may have passed away more than three decades ago, but his family wants his legacy and views to live on as more governments legalize recreational use of marijuana. To do so, they’ve launched a consumer cannabis brand today with the help of a Seattle-based private equity firm.
Marley Natural is an international brand that in late 2015 will sell marijuana-related products — everything from strains to vaporizers to lotions infused with Jamaican botanicals — in places where regulations permit legal use of marijuana.
“Marley Natural is a brand with deep roots in the life and legacy of our father,” Cedella Marley, Bob’s daughter, said in this video. “He’s smiling at what’s really happening.”
The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Privateer Holdings, a four-year-old Seattle firm that we first wrote about back in October 2012. Privateer owns and operates a handful of marijuana-related companies, from Leafly — a strain resource app that won GeekWire’s App of the Year award six months ago — to Tilray, a Canadian-based brand of medical marijuana.
The Marley family approached Privateer in early 2013 with an idea to carry on Bob Marley’s positive views in regard to the effects of marijuana. The family’s goals aligned with Privateer’s philosophy in the legal cannabis industry.
“We wanted Bob Marley’s voice and vision — and his family’s vision — to help be a part of this movement of ending prohibition,” Privateer Holdings CEO Brendan Kennedy told GeekWire. “In many ways, he started the movement 50 years ago with his public comments about cannabis.”
Kennedy, who is in New York helping set up Marley Natural’s new office, said that the target market for the new company are “responsible adults who are already consumers of cannabis.”
Marley Natural enters a marijuana industry that is undergoing a mountain of change — and lucrative opportunities for entrepreneurs — as voters legalize both medical and recreational marijuana. Earlier this month, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C. joined Colorado and Washington as states that legalized recreational use and pot shops.
As a result, investors are showing serious interest in marijuana-related companies. Privateer spent its early days struggling to raise money; now, it’s become much easier with the use of cannabis quickly becoming more mainstream. The firm has raised more than $50 million to date.
“The investors notice that this could be the next great American industry and are looking to make money,” Troy Dayton, CEO of a legal cannabis-focused angel investor network called The Arcview Group, told us in July. “But they are also looking at this as an impact investment. Many want to see the day when not a single adult is punished for marijuana and they see investing in this industry as a way to make that happen.”
Kennedy plans to help his firm close out a $75 million Series B round when he arrives back in Seattle this month.