Marley Natural’s Elegant Pot Gear Is for Smokers Who Say ‘Whoa Sir,’ Not ‘Whoa Dude’
A year and change after its launch, Marley Natural’s inaugural line of cannabis and cannabis accessories are here. From the get-go, the brand—which was created by private equity firm Privateer Holdings and rides on a licensing agreement with Bob Marley’s family—has aspired to refashion how we talk about pot. Marijuana is a mainstream commodity consumed by mainstream people, Marley Natural says. It’s not taboo; it’s natural.
That’s why the company’s inaugural line of smoking accessories doesn’t really look like a line of smoking accessories. The four pipes—a cigarette-sized taster ($35), a spoon pipe ($68), a steamroller ($72), and a bubbler ($162)—feature black walnut stems and glass bowls or chambers. They’re elegant, more like Chemex pour-over equipment than the swirled glass tie-dyed pipes you’d normally find in a head shop. The pieces are debuting alongside two trays ($65 and $78), two storage containers ($30 and $52), and a grinder ($88), and look like “something I would display, rather than hide, when company is over,” says David Merten, Marley Natural’s creative director.
Marley Natural is part of a niche but growing trend toward beautifully designed pot paraphernalia. If you’re not dextrous enough to roll joints, you probably smoke out of a pipe. And it used to be that if you smoked out of a pipe, you probably used a bubble-bodied hippie-stoner style device or some garish bong—whether it suited your personal aesthetic or not. Glass pipes all tend to fit into that trope, Merten says, because glassblowers have to blow a bubble into molten glass to create the chamber. A rounded bubble is simply the easiest shape to make. But for the discerning user who’s willing and able to pay more, there are more options nowadays. You can buy a ceramic pipe with an airbrushed pastel ombré, or a kiln-fired pipe that looks like a smooth skipping stone. Beyond pipes, there are cannabis delivery parcels that look like something from Muji, and hyper-minimalist vessels for stashing and transporting your bud. And then there are slick, high-tech vaporizers. None of this new weed-ware looks like contraband, and that’s entirely the point.
Marley Natural’s lineup of accessories aren’t as aggressively cool as some other devices, but they carefully avoid the clichéd iconography that still decorates too much cannabis merchandise. “In Colorado or Washington or California if you walk into a cannabis dispensary … it’s pretty astounding. Everyone slaps on a green cannabis leaf, all the colors are black and green,” says Zack Hutson, Privateer Holdings’ press officer. Even Leafs By Snoop—Snoop Dogg’s line of cannabis goods, with artful packaging designed by Pentagram—uses a leaf decal, albeit a gilded one. Those motifs don’t hurt anybody, but they are a visual link to pot’s past, and pot’s past has largely been an illicit one. In states that have yet to legalize, or at least decriminalize, marijuana, such visuals can conjure negative stereotypes associated with the drug. That runs counter to Marley Natural’s agenda. “Brands need to demonstrate that [cannabis] is not a counterculture product,” Hutson says. In other words: pot companies need to demonstrate that they can grow up and act like adults.
Marley Natural is in a unique position to set the tone for what cannabis products will look like going forward. It’s one of the biggest marijuana companies in what’s becoming a very big industry. Last June, Privateer Holdings secured a $75 million round of funding to help it expand not just Marley Natural, but Leafly and Tilray, its two other cannabis companies. (Diego Pellicer, a publicly traded “premium marijuana” company that buys and leases retail spaces to smaller cannabis sellers, is the other big player in the market.)
Both Merten and Hutson make it clear that Marley Natural is taking this position seriously. They talk a lot about “the ritual of smoking,” as Merten puts it, and the lore of Bob Marley’s respect for “the herb.” (The reggae legend disliked the word “weed.”) That respect shows up in the design details of the new accessories line: the wood rolling trays have a scooped-out corner, for funneling your product into wherever it needs to go. The storage box features magnets embedded in the lid so it closes securely. The wood stems on each of the smoking devices easily disassembles from the glass component, making it easier to clean out resin. On top of that, the designers put extra work into tapering the shape of the glass to create thinner, more specific shapes. “We wanted to make sure they didn’t feel similar to a lot of the stuff that’s out there already,” Merten says, “or that they look like they came from a laboratory, or like the more psychedelic stuff you might see.”