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Reggae icon Bob Marley's family to lend name to cannabis brand

By Eric M. Johnson SEATTLE (Reuters) - The family of Reggae icon Bob Marley and a Seattle-based private equity firm on Tuesday said they are launching the first global cannabis brand with marijuana products sold under a name long tied to a plant he lovingly called "the herb". The brand, dubbed Marley Natural, marks the first time the family's name would adorn packages of cannabis products ranging from strains similar to those Bob might have smoked in his homeland Jamaica to concentrates, oils and infused lotions sold in countries and U.S. states that have taken steps to decriminalise and legalise pot use and sales. Marley, credited with helping to spread Jamaican music to a world-wide audience with hits like "No Woman, No Cry", and "I Shot the Sheriff," died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 36. "He viewed the herb as something spiritual that could awaken our well-being, deepen our reflection, connect us to nature and liberate our creativity," Cedella Marley, Bob's daughter, said in a statement announcing the deal. The agreement came weeks after two U.S. states voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use in systems that would usher in retail shops similar to those already operating in Colorado and Washington state. The sale of cannabis remains illegal in much of the world, but countries mainly in Europe and the Americas have decriminalised it by varying degrees. The Netherlands permits the sale of marijuana in "coffee shops", Israel and Canada and nearly half of U.S. states have allowed its medicinal use, and Uruguay has legalized its use. In the United States, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration did not immediately respond to interview requests about the plans. The Marley Natural brand would likely be seen on cannabis and other products and accessories by late 2015 under the 30-year global licencing arrangement struck between the family and Seattle-based private equity firm Privateer Holdings. The brand, a wholly-owned subsidiary based in New York, would produce and sell hemp-infused topicals and accessories in countries around the world and could enter into licensing agreements governing production and packaging requirements with growers and processors that sell cannabis and cannabis-infused products in U.S. states, among other plans. Marley's family said in 2009 it would partner with Hilco Consumer Capital to licence products ranging from apparel to video games. (Editing by Ken Wills)