Higher Ground: Bob Marley’s family is developing marijuana products — other celebrities should follow

It had to happen sooner or later as marijuana legalization makes its way across the planet. As the plant gets commoditized, some of the world's great stoners will lend their names to products associated with it.

There is probably no stoner more well-known than reggae superstar Bob Marley. He was shown smoking a big spliff on the cover of his Catch a Fire album in 1973, long before almost anyone was willing to be publicly identified with marijuana. Marley's family has entered into an agreement with Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm in the marijuana market, to develop Marley Natural products. The brand will market heirloom Jamaican strains such as the legendary Lambs Bread, as well as lotions, creams, and other accessories.

"My husband believed 'the herb' was a natural and positive part of life," Rita Marley, Bob's wife and I-Threes singer, stated in a press release announcing the agreement.

While Wailer Peter Tosh is the one who recorded "Legalize It" — "and I will advertise it" — it looks like Marley's brand will be the one taking it to the new level. Those who will advertise it are all around us today. Comedian Bill Maher reminds us how much he loves weed, seemingly every chance he gets. Not only will he advertise it, there might not be any left for the rest of us after he blows through the room.

Comedians Cheech and Chong, also among those who openly associated themselves with the herb before it was cool (or safe), broached the idea of marijuana advertising long ago with their classic routine about "Acapulco Gold Filters" — "No stems no seeds that you don't need, Acapulco Gold is (loud inhale, deep voice) some badass weed."

Harold and Kumar are the contemporary equivalent characters with their own crazy movies about stoners, but Cheech and Chong put themselves out there way more than just acting like stoners. In fact Tommy Chong, whose film career just didn't go as far as Cheech Marin's, actually sold a line of pipes and bongs known as Chong Glass. He also went to jail on a nine-month sentence after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute drug paraphernalia. Chong also reportedly used hemp oil to help beat his prostate cancer. He's definitely still on board with the herb. Will he soon be marketing Chong's Prostate Pills?

On the other hand, Kumar's Kush seems to have a natural ring to it.

Now here is a cool brand. Rocker Melissa Etheridge is throwing her guitar into the ring and developing her own cannabis-infused wine. Etheridge has been open about her use of marijuana to lessen the side effects of chemotherapy while battling breast cancer. Now that she is cancer-free, she sees an opportunity to tap into the market. Etheridge says her new business venture is "a huge opportunity" to break into a relatively new market. There are already a number of cannawines for sale on the West Coast but none with the marketing edge of Etheridge's name and history with marijuana. Her song "Bring Me Some Water" might be ready for a little revision to help out with the advertising.

This is just the beginning of the boom in cannabis products, whether for recreation or medicinal. The cannabinoid CBD is suddenly very popular for its medical properties and that it is not psychoactive. It's been touted for its effectiveness in treating pediatric epilepsy and as a component of cancer therapy. Since it doesn't get you high there are plenty of open doors welcoming products containing it. A bunch of companies have come out with CBD oils and salves, and claim that it is legal in all 50 states. That's because they say they are extracting CBD from legally imported hemp. Regardless of where it's coming from, it's being put in acne treatments, salves, skin creams, and more.

That kind of makes sense because when Rick Simpson created his hemp oil he used it to treat his own skin cancer and numerous skin ailments of others. It took a while before one of his patients thought to eat the stuff. Now everybody and their brother are making some kind of hemp oil. While that has worked for many people with severe illnesses, the big money will be in products that have mass marketability.

"There is going to be a huge amount of CBD in all sorts of products," says Martin Lee, director of Project CBD, a nonprofit focused on the trendy cannabinoid. "It will be like spirulina in the health food fad. ... You'll see synthetic CBD around that drug companies will be making. How people will use this therapeutically is not obvious at this point. Several companies are eyeing distributing CBD in all 50 states. It is widespread and fairly easily available."

Lee cautions consumers to be careful with what CBD products they are using. A report titled Hemp Oil Hustlers can be found on the Project CBD website.

Another avenue that just opened up is for Native American brands. The federal Department of Justice recently announced that Native Americans can grow or sell marijuana on their reservations. Non-Indians can buy at these sites. While some tribes have already said they don't want to add marijuana to the substance abuse problems they face (maybe they need a little education here), others are considering it. Should we be anticipating marketing of products such as Sitting Bull Buds, Crazy Horse Hemp or Pocahontas Pot? Or how about simply Native Natural? I'm not trying to be offensive to anybody, but once the marketing people get hold of this it's going to be over the top.

Vaporizers have become popular among marijuana users and Oxford Dictionaries has named "vape" the word of the year. While vape pens are also popular for smoking tobacco, the San Francisco Chronicle aptly referred to the practice as "tech savvy toking." Nobody I know refers to tobacco smoking as toking. There has to be someone out there selling vaporizers who's ready to use the phrase "What's the Word" in their advertising.

It's way easy to slap a marijuana leaf on some gear and folks have been doing it for years. But now there's so much stuff. You can get a marijuana thong – though it's probably not made of hemp. Do you think Victoria's Secret wants to come out with a line of Tricky Vicky lingerie? Each pair of panties will have a little pouch in it to hold a blunt.

Legendary toker Willie Nelson can start the Willie Weed line of monogrammed good ol' boy boxers that will be made of hemp and last forever.

Snoop Dog has built a career around his stoner image. Is Snoop up to the challenge of taking his marketing to another level? Will Rihanna come out with the boob bong? Maybe Miley Cyrus will partner with her for that project.

Here's the ultimate: How about when President Obama is on his way out of office, he reschedules marijuana by presidential decree. Then he goes back to Hawaii to market his own Obama Choom Gang Ganja, with the Funkadelic title "Free your mind and your ass will follow." — mt

About The Author

Larry Gabriel

Larry Gabriel covers cannabis for Metro Times. He also writes the Detroit Watch in the monthly Michigan Cannabis Industries Report. Larry's chapter "Rebirth of Tribe" in the book Heaven Was Detroit, from jazz to hip-hop and beyond chronicles the involvement of Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Harold McKinney,...
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