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Bob Marley: Marlboro Man of marijuana?


Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based private equity firm that invests in the marijuana industry, has struck a deal with the estate of the Jamaican reggae star to launch a global cannabis brand.

Its Marley Natural subsidiary will start selling products late next year, including "heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains", marijuana-infused skin creams and lip balms, and accessories such as vaporisers and pipes "based on those that Bob preferred".

It is Privateer's biggest move into the blossoming consumer market for recreational marijuana that has emerged thanks to the legalisation of sales and production in several US states including Colorado and Washington, and Uruguay, decriminalisation in other places, and growing acceptance of medicinal use. The drug remains illegal under federal US law.

In the US, the total medical and recreational market is expected to hit $2.6bn in revenue this year. America's illegal cannabis market was estimated at about $40bn in 2010 by Rand Corp, the think-tank.

For Brendan Kennedy, Privateer's chief executive, the offer to partner with Marley's estate was irresistible.

"The question we've been asking ourselves for four and a half years is: what does the first global brand look like in this industry?" he said. "If you were to look throughout history for the one person most associated with this product, it would be Bob Marley. He has a global reach."

The singer's cultural status has not dimmed since his death in 1981. Marley's estate brought in $20m in the past year, putting him at number five on Forbes' annual list of top-earning deceased celebrities – behind Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, but ahead of Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon. His greatest hits album, Legend, first released in 1984, hit number five on the Billboard sales chart this September.

His heirs have also traded on his name to launch a number of businesses, including House of Marley, which sells headphones and audio accessories, and Marley Coffee. The family has been caught up over the years in legal battles with each other and with Marley's record label over control of his assets, image, name and music. The singer died without a will.

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