A mural depicting reggae music icon Bob Marley decorates a wall in the yard of Marley's Kingston home in Jamaica.
KINGSTON, JAMAICA (AP) — A U.S. private equity firm announced Tuesday it has joined the family of late reggae star Bob Marley in hopes of building what it touts as the "world's first global cannabis brand."
Seattle-based Privateer Holdings announced Tuesday it has reached a licensing deal with Marley's heirs to offer marijuana strains, including ones famed in Jamaica, where regulations permit by late 2015. It also plans to sell weed-infused lotions, creams and various accessories.
"My dad would be so happy to see people understanding the healing power of the herb," Miami-based Cedella Marley said in a company statement. She's the eldest daughter of the music legend who died of cancer in 1981 and is Jamaica's most iconic figure.
Over the years, his estate has authorized deals for a wide range of merchandise. But the move to create "Marley Natural" has stirred grousing in Jamaica among those who share his Rastafarian faith, a spiritual movement that considers the drug divine.
Maxine Stowe of the Rastafari Millennium Council asserts that Marley was "the least of the Wailers around the issue of ganja legalization" and worries his estate's efforts to launch a cannabis brand will negatively impact Jamaican efforts to financially benefit from a legalization movement gaining traction across the globe.
The Wailers were founded by Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. All three famously espoused smoking the "holy herb," but Stowe argues Wailer and the late Tosh were more strident activists. "The government has to stand up now for Rastafari and the Wailers' rights in their intellectual property!" Stowe wrote in a Tuesday email.
Some Rastas are also irked that Marley Natural will be based in New York. But while pot remains prohibited here, Jamaica has been rethinking its position. The government hopes to amend drug laws to pave the way for a regulated medical marijuana and research sector. Officials say this could be achieved next year.
Delano Seiveright, director of the island's Ganja Law Reform Coalition, said there are hopes that the Marley family's plans will spur Jamaica to "develop a legal and regulated cannabis industry much sooner rather than later."