But times have changed — in a big way. Look no further than Tuesday’s announcement by Marley’s family that it plans to piggyback on successful efforts to legalize marijuana in the United States and elsewhere by introducing a new brand of marijuana products bearing the late singer’s name.
“Marley Natural” is being launched by Privateer Holdings, a cannabis industry investment firm, and products will reach the market in late 2015.
“My dad would be so happy to see people understanding the healing power of the herb,” Marley’s daughter Cedella Marley said in a news release. “He viewed the herb as something spiritual that could awaken our well-being, deepen our reflection, connect us to nature and liberate our creativity.”
“Marley Natural is an authentic way to honor his legacy by adding his voice to the conversation about cannabis and helping end the social harms caused by prohibition,” she added. It will offer organically grown heirloom Jamaican marijuana strains, in keeping with Marley’s preference for high-quality marijuana grown without the use of fertilizer. And it will be available in jurisdictions that allow recreational or medicinal marijuana sales. The brand also plans to offer cannabis- and hemp-infused products such as lotions and sun-repair creams.
Marley reportedly smoked as much as a pound of marijuana per week. But at the time of his intense fame in the United States and around the world, he was viewed as a nonconformist symbol.
Marley has become even more of a global icon and brand in the years since his death, but that it’s now happening in a world in which marijuana is decriminalized in some places is something even he didn’t foresee.
“Legalize herb? Boy, I jus’ don’ know. It’s kinda legalized already,” he noted in a 1976 interview with High Times.
He was referring to the widespread use and cultivation of marijuana in Jamaica, where the drug has actually been illegal for over 100 years.
And change is coming there, too.
In late September, the Jamaican government announced that it is considering support for a proposal to decriminalize possession of small amounts of what Marley and Rastafarians called the “holy herb” if it is being used for medicinal, and eventually, religious purposes.
That is a direct result of the loosening of legalization laws in some U.S. states– though marijuana remains an illegal schedule I substance under Federal law.
Over the years, critics of harsh marijuana laws have argued that the penalties have done little to stamp out organized crime associated with the trafficking of black market drugs, including marijuana, through the island.
And of course, there is potentially huge financial upside, as the investment firm Privateer Holdings has sought to demonstrate with its recent business ventures in the marijuana space.
“The time has come to provide an opportunity for Jamaicans to benefit from the marijuana industry,” said Kingston’s mayor Angela Brown Burke recently, according to the Associated Press.
According to a release, the brand will have an unspecified philanthropic component to “ensure that families and communities who have been harmed by prohibition have the opportunity to benefit from the new, legal cannabis economy,” the company’s announcement said.
“My husband believed ‘the herb’ was a natural and positive part of life and he felt it was important to the world,” Marley’s wife Rita said in a statement. “He looked forward to this day.”