Bob Marley marijuana is on it's way — what's next, Lou Reed heroin?

The coming release of “Marley Natural” is another sign that the forces of Babylon are cashing in on the reggae musician's legacy

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As Charles Dickens observed at the start of A Christmas Carol, “Marley was dead. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.” His more contemporary namesake Bob Marley has also been pushing up the daisies, for 30 years to be precise, but it hasn’t stopped the forces of Babylon from cashing in on his name.

The Marley family has struck a deal with a New York-based private equity firm to flog “Marley Natural” cannabis to drug-smokers worldwide – or at least in those territories where you won’t wind up in the slammer for up to five years for toking it.

I heard about the new brand on the sedate airwaves of Radio Four’s Today programme, where a polished marketing whippersnapper from Privateer Holdings, which owns Marley Natural, announced, “We have been investing significant amounts in the cannabis market for the last few years,” as if he was discussing electric cars or home-diagnostic kits rather than narcotics.

He assured listeners that “nobody on the face of the earth is more associated with cannabis than Bob”, which is true, though I’d like to think Marley is still best known for making really quite good music. Sure he smoked a lot of dope (an expression of his Rasta beliefs) but it seems rather a nerve to appropriate just one side of him to flog merchandise. Marley Natural won’t just be shifting “heirloom Jamaican cannabis strands”, but hemp-infused cream and lip balms, to put beside their earlier triumphs with Marley Coffee and House of Marley headphones.

Marley’s daughter, Cedella, has endorsed the initiative with an enthusiasm that’s understandable for someone who stands to make a colossal wedge of cash: US legal marijuana sales are predicted to reach $2.3bn (£1.5bn) in 2015. “My dad would be so happy to see people understanding the healing power of the herb,” she gushed, skilfully bodyswerving the word “drug”, and went on: “[Marley Natural is an] authentic way to honour his legacy by adding his voice to the conversation about cannabis and helping end the social harms caused by prohibition.”


I love this stuff about “healing” and “authenticity” and “legacy” as much as I love the use of “heirloom”, as if we were discussing tomatoes. As for the “social harms” caused by banning drugs, would these be the equivalent to the harms done to people I know who developed severe mental problems from smoking cannabis when young?

But let me not get preachy. Let’s just consider who else’s “legacy” might usefully be merchandised in the future.

Lou Reed: “It’s what Lou would have wanted,” laughed Bradley T Hackensack, of Shark Enterprises Inc, “though we were too scared to approach him directly while he was alive. We think that marketing Wild Side heroin, the finest opium-derivative that money can buy, subtly but authentically cut with baking soda and French chalk, and packaged with top-quality ‘Hypotastic’ syringes, is the best way to honour his legacy. We also recommend you buy Christmas Gift boxes of Dirty Boulevard soup and shower gel for the convincing aroma of New York’s atmospheric Bowery district.”

Jim Morrison: “He lived way too fast and died far too young,” said Renata Glockenbush of Exploit’EmAll inc, applying a raw shallot to her streaming eyes, “and it’s true that, in his latter days, his weight ballooned and he liked to exposing himself on stage. But we feel that giving fans a chance to purchase the ‘People Are Strange’ flasher’s mac with replica plastic genitalia is an authentic way to connect them to Nature as he liked to celebrate it. And our Lizard King moisturising gel for scaly skin is another great way to honour a truly great singer.”

Ol’ Dirty Bastard of the Wu Tang Clan: “Yes, he made some records and was a mainstream rapper with the Ku Klux Klan, or whatever they’re called,” nodded DeForest L Deluca, CEO of SincereTribute Merchandising, “but of course he’s best known for assault, robbery, shoplifting, criminal threat, attempted murder, possessing firearms and addiction to crack cocaine. And he was always being shot at. We think fans will feel closer to their hero by purchasing this authentic, state-of-the-art ‘Spin On This, MoFo’ bullet-proof vest, accessorised with 20 vials of heirloom crack in the fob pocket. It’s a fitting tribute to a great guy.”