As Marijuana continues to be legalized state by state in the United States, there is little doubt that we are now looking at the green gold. A new green economy is coming that will do for some states and countries what gold did for California and oil did for Texas.
If poor Jamaicans were dreaming of taking part in the pending lucrative weed economy, they can pretty much say goodbye to those dreams. Those dreams were shattered when an American private equity firm led by a team of white, Yale and Harvard educated people who are as un-Rasta as possible, announced they had made Bob Marley the face of the world’s first cannabis brand.
The deal struck between the Marley estate and corporate America represents a bitter pill to swallow for many Jamaicans. It’s a galling double whammy for many who had pinned their hopes on harnessing two of Jamaica’s most bankable cultural legacies – Bob Marley and ganja – to keep the island afloat.
For many in Jamaica, a country desperate to revive its battered economy, the announcement that Privateer Holdings are aiming to make Marley the “Marlboro man of marijuana” was like watching their nation’s golden goose dust itself off, flap its wings and head off over the horizon to America or, as Bob Marley himself called it, the land of “pure devilry”.
Marley naturals are now available in states where marijuana is legal and boasts an impressive logo that was designed by the same people who designed the Starbuck’s logo. If US anti-ganja laws continue to fall like dominos, as many think they will, it’s a product that could mean Marley leapfrogs Michael Jackson to become the richest dead man ever. Sadly, Jamaican marijuana farmers and those who suffered because of marijuana from the hands of the police will continue to be poor.
Marley’s daughter Cedella told the press that it seemed natural that Bob should be a part of this conversation. “My dad would be so happy to see people understanding the healing power of the herb; he’s smiling right now at what’s really happening.” Cedella couldn’t be more wrong, Bob Marley understands finance and economics too much to be smiling at the current situation.
Despite the slick advert showing misty-eyed panoramas of verdant Jamaican ganja country, Marley weed will not be grown on the island, because growing marijuana is not legal there. It will be grown somewhere in the US and the brand will be based in New York City. Jamaica will see little benefit from the cannabis sold under its favorite son’s name.
It’s a sickening irony for the country’s numerous Rastafarian and cannabis growing communities, who, since the 1913 ganja ban, have been campaigning to legally grow their world-renowned weed – because one of the major barriers to Jamaica legalizing pot growing has been the very country that is about to benefit from the Marley-Jamaica ganja complex. Decades of political bullying from America, including trade sanctions, has ensured the Jamaican government has toed the anti-drugs line and kept ganja illegal.
Now the wind has changed, with US states falling over each other to trouser the green dollar and an increased demand for medical marijuana from countries such as Canada. Jamaica has been left on the back foot. Although the Government has decided that legalization is the way forward, the Marleys did not wait around for Jamaica so they could join a partnership that would benefit Jamaicans. They were not obligated to, but for a country, a people and a culture that has given them so much, it is the least they could do.
18 Karat Reggae spoke to Roy Chambers, the man who offered president Obama 10 acres of marijuana if he would let his daughter marry her son. Like most Jamaicans, he was not happy about Marley Natural.
“It’s a case of Jamaica’s cultural legacy being exploited by US private equity groups to make money,” he told me. “The people at this meeting were mostly poor farmers for whom cannabis is a means of daily economic survival. But in the brave new world of legalization, they are being swept away by the US cannabis cowboys. The Marley estate may be cashing in, but it’s hard to see how Jamaica will benefit at all. The prime beneficiaries will be rich investors from the US.”
“We are very proud to see Jamaica’s much revered Marley family getting into the business of ganja. However, there are concerns, from several quarters, that Jamaica doesn’t figure much in their plans,” Mr. Chambers added.
Maxine Stowe of the Rastafari Millennium Council said the Marley cannabis brand will “negatively impact future efforts in Jamaica to financially benefit from a legalization movement gaining traction across the globe”. She said some Rastas are also irked that Marley Natural will be based in the US, not his hometown.
From what he said when he was alive, I think Marley’s Adidas wearing ghost would not be entirely happy with the choices his beloved wife has made. He was a Rasta who rejected the “Babylon” of western oppression, materialism and greed; a dedicated follower of black nationalist Marcus Garvey. Would he really have wanted it this way?
“I’m definitely not buying the idea that the great man would have wanted to see his legacy hawked off in this way,” says Roy Chambers. “Sure, he used cannabis and spoke positively of its benefits, but I don’t remember him writing songs in praise of US business interests cashing in on Jamaican culture at the expense of Jamaica itself.”
His friend, Herbie Miller, the Institute of Jamaica’s musical director and curator of the Jamaica Music Museum, has said that Marley “was never about commercialism”. He was instead “a poet, humanist and nationalist as well as an Africanist and an advocate for improving the sociopolitical conditions of the Jamaican people and the world’s oppressed”.