When visiting the home of Cedella Marley, there is an immediate awareness of the presence of a powerful legacy. After all, being the firstborn daughter of Bob and Rita Marley warrants a formidable energy. Placing her in the room to talk business with Tahira Rehmatullah is proof that this legacy is in a skilled set of hands that seek to further solidify the Marley family name.
From roots to brands to rising up, these two are the commanding forces leading the Marley legacy into the world of legal cannabis.
Rooted in Higher Education
Both from closely knit families and communities, Rehmatullah and Marley bring formative voices to the emerging world of a legal cannabis industry.
When it comes to Cedella Marley, this movement resides in her DNA. Pointing out that she is the daughter of Bob Marley is as equally obvious as it is difficult to fathom. With a deeply rooted perspective and wise nonchalance, she commented on her upbringing. “Cannabis has been present in my life since I was a child,” she said. “I saw it used in many ways, for healing, for products, and for personal spirituality.”
The daughter of a surgeon and part of the only Pakistani family in their community, for Rehmatullah, cannabis posed an interesting dichotomy growing up. “I grew up in a very traditional Pakistani-American family in Ohio, where cannabis was certainly prevalent but not really a part of my life. In Pakistan, cannabis is very common, but no one really looks twice at it,” Rehmatullah said. “I come from a family that very much believes in natural medicine, so I quickly developed an appreciation for the possibility that cannabis could positively impact people’s lives.”
Following her graduation from Yale School of Management, Rehmatullah worked in the private business sector. However, it wasn’t long until her philanthropic side took the wheel and she began working with the development of sustainable housing markets, what she referred to as “utilizing private capital for public good.”
Soon thereafter Rehmatullah found herself wrestling with a new professional endeavor: legal cannabis. The inspiration behind this shift was her grandfather’s diagnosis of cancer and her mother’s caretaking of him during his illness.
“I navigated my way to this industry because of that,” Rehmatullah said. “I really was fascinated by it. And confused why there wasn’t more being done around it for medicinal purposes and people in pain. But [I was] also thinking through social justice issues and how cannabis has unfairly targeted certain populations. And then I came across this emerging industry—right time, right place. There were so many different things that I was passionate about and never knew how they could possibly roll up into one job or one industry—and then I found cannabis.”
Branding Revolutions and Revolutionizing Brands
Cedella Marley’s exposure to the far-reaching capacity of artistry is a major piece of the puzzle in building the Marley Natural cannabis brand. “We were very blessed to learn the art of performance and the music business from our parents,” Cedella said. “They taught us our work ethic and talents could be used far more than our own personal success but also to serve humanity. We are blessed to be a blessing for others. This project reflects those values with the hopes of helping many.”
She further elaborated on the pillars of the Marley Natural brand. “One of our goals is to bring forth the many benefits of cannabis. More importantly, we hope brands, companies, and people will begin to follow Marley Natural’s lead and use hemp as a sustainable material and of course as a health food. Like our father, we want to live a natural life, utilizing what the earth has provided.”
Nonetheless, together Marley and Rehmatullah have their work cut out for them in ensuring that the Marley Natural brand is a proper reflection of the Marley family legacy. “We hope our platform will further our father’s lifestyle of utilizing the earth to heal,” Cedella said. “More importantly, we hope to see positive change in the decriminalization of cannabis and economic reform for many of the poorest areas of the world.”
The notion of rising up—whether a literal definition of a growing plant or a figurative representation of a response to oppression—is an integral piece of the Marley mantra. Cedella is confident that the legacy ultimately transcends music or cannabis. “To me, the greatest element of the Marley legacy is unity, empathy, and love—for family, of humanity, and for the planet,” Cedella said. “We are all a part of this universe and the actions we take as individuals impact all of us. We aim to further our father’s message and hope for collective freedom and justice for all.”
While this spirit is a foundational piece to the Marley legacy, current philanthropic programs within the Marley Natural brand prove to back up the talk with a socially conscious walk. As Rehmatullah described, the philanthropic program Rise Up aims to give back to the Jamaican population that is in many ways the foundation of the Marley Natural brand. Here, pillars of economic empowerment, environmental sustainability, and undoing the harms of prohibition keep the social justice movement aligned. As far as their stateside philanthropic endeavors, their recent partnership with Defy Ventures involves collaboration on an entrepreneurship training and employment program aimed at assisting formerly incarcerated individuals. Indeed, the work at Marley Natural is never done.
Ultimately, the work being done to simultaneously preserve and grow the Marley legacy is less of a business plan and more of a cultural movement. As one of the most influential individuals of all time, Bob Marley embodies a kinship with the world that is unbreakable.
“Kinship to me is a sense of connection to others based on values and goals,” Cedella said. “That message of One Love is reflected in everything I do, from choosing to serve as a voice for initiatives that seek to assist women out of poverty to producing product lines in all of the Marley family brands that are made of sustainable materials. Who we are infuses all that we do.”