We Smoked Marley Natural Weed So You Don't Have To

Sampling the marijuana brand worth millions.

When Privateer Holdings, the Seattle-based private equity firm betting big on cannabis businesses and weed startups, announced Marley Natural, the news met mixed reactions from the cannabis community and beyond

Marley Natural is based in New York. Its weed is grown in California. And the brand is one product of a 30-year licensing deal between Privateer and the Marley family estate, in Jamaica. 

Privateer has spent what industry observers estimate are millions of dollars and more than a year marketing and developing its initial Marley products. The Marley weed and accessories are being pitched as a lifestyle brand, and also as an extension of the late musician. Sales messages claim that the weed-infused products will further the “peaceful image” that has encapsulated Marley’s memory.

Skeptics say the company is banking off of and appropriating aspects of Rastafarian culture.

Maxine Stowe of the Rastafari Millennium Council told VICE the Privateer products will ”negatively impact future efforts in Jamaica to financially benefit from a legalization movement gaining traction across the globe.”

Privateer released Marley Natural’s debut product line back in February in California. So, of course The KIND's entire staff wanted to try it.

Lately, my cannabis diet has consisted of mostly concentrates. I figured any weed with a guesstimated $10 million of marketing behind it should be a good way to integrate flower back into the routine, and “disrupt” my dabbing habit.

First thing Monday morning, I visited the Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group (LAPCG) in West Hollywood, the oldest operating collective in Los Angeles county and one of very few dispensaries already carrying Marley Natural.

LAPCG held a special event in conjunction with Marley Natural—which also threw a Hollywood Hills launch party—last weekend. Marley Natural promotional posters were everywhere inside the collective, and the strains were displayed prominently on the top shelf of the main case. 

Victoria, the way-chill and hella-welcoming LAPCG employee checking patients in at the front desk, was wearing a Marley Natural T-shirt. The phone rang, and Victoria informed the caller that the outlet did, in fact, have the Marley Natural strains on deck.

Procuring the Marley Natural products. All photography by Ben Karris.

The question is one Victoria can expect to answer all day long. It was, in truth, fairly difficult (more than one minute of Google searching) to determine the strains’ local availability. Stocked outlets weren’t even listed on Leafly, the online strain database and cannabis information hub owned by Privateer.

“We sold out of the cartridges the first day,” Ben, a budtender at LAPCG, tells me as he packages my nugs. “People have really been liking these products. They [Marley Natural] haven’t released their infused skin lotion yet, and already we’ve had people asking for it.”

The cat is out of the proverbial bag. And also emblazoned on it.

Marley’s signature lion logo is imprinted on each jar of weed. The labeling also includes a lab test verification number, which is to be desired, and takes one last opportunity to remind you, before you blaze up, that you should feel good about doing so. “Marley Natural promotes a worldwide vision for positive change,” the label reads.

The four strains—Marley Red (CBD-rich/C-3PO); Marley Green (hybrid/Girl Scout Cookies); Marley Black (indica/Sensi-Star), and Marley Gold (sativa/Blue Mountain Fire) are sold only as eighths (3.5 grams) for $50 a piece—only slightly more expensive than the local norm. I ordered one of each.

Empowered to spark said positive change, and holding a half ounce of weed in my backpack, I summoned an Uber. Five minutes later, I was en route to The KIND’s Melrose office where the entire staff waited eagerly to sample the Marley Natural.

Marley Gold - Sativa

Strain: Blue Mountain Fire
THC: 0.9%
THCA: 20.8%
CBD: 0.0 %

Both pungent and potent, the Blue Mountain Fire smelled as good as it smoked. A piney fragrance gives way to a calming high. We felt it first underneath our eyes and around our heads, as if we were wearing hats. Dense nugs. Good vibes. Would smoke again.

Marley Black - Indica

Strain: Sensi Star
THC: 1.1%
THCA: 21.5%
CBD: 0.0 %

I normally gauge my predictions for how good Mexican food will be based on the quality of the salsa with chips brought out by the restaurant at the beginning of the meal. This is by no means a scientific process. With the exception of a few banger burrito spots in Arizona whose tacos and burritos and taquitos were on point despite serving salsa that tasted more like watery ketchup, the system has held true over time. I approach new strains of weed in the same way: If it looks good, smells good, feels good—it’s likely going to be make me feel good. Relaxation is an effect attributed to the Sensi Star strain by Leafly. That is not wrong. 

Marley Green - Hybrid

Strain: Girl Scout Cookies
THC: 1.7%
THCA: 25.5%
CBD: 0.0 %

Smells like citrus. Sticks to your fingers. Smokes like a dream. Would be sold for $35-an-eighth if not for the jar it came in.

Marley Red - CBD

Strain: C-3PO
THC: 0.8%
THCA: 0.5%
CBD: 15.5 %

Smoking flower is a rarity in my weed routine, and buying weed high in CBDs is even rarer. This cannabis variant isn’t meant to get the consumer high so much as ease pain in their joints, or to reduce anxiety—the psychoactive effects are less noticeable than those from a strain high in THC. The buds themselves are less aromatic or sticky. All of these descriptions adequately sum up our experience with Marley Red. It tasted like shit, though. Like black pepper.

By the time we finished sampling each strain, we were noticeably stoned. That’s because we had just smoked weed—not because we smoked weed that came in a sleek designer jar. I will absolutely indulge in Marley Natural in the future, but I probably won’t pay for it.

On the product side, Marley Natural has little to improve upon. As a brand trying to carve out a niche in a quickly growing market, it needs to decide if it's the “TOMS shoes of weed”—and make good on its promises to provide for a positive future, starting in Jamaica. Or the brand can go in the opposite direction, and come to represent what some are calling the “Marlboro Mon of Marijuana.”