The four strains in the new Marley Natural limited-edition anniversary collection. (Provided by Marley Natural)

Exclusive: Marley Natural herb collection elevates artistic connection

Herb is the word today here at The Cannabist – not cannabis, marijuana, pot and certainly not weed – as we exclusively unveil Marley Natural’s Neville Garrick-designed Anniversary Herb Collection.

The official Bob Marley cannabis brand tapped the musician’s legendary art director, who created the iconic covers for most of Marley’s albums, to pay a special tribute this month for what would have been Marley’s 72nd birthday and to celebrate its own one-year anniversary.

Marley Natural Neville Garrick video
Artist Neville Garrick talks about working with Bob Marley in a screengrab from a Marley Natural interview. (Provided by Marley Natural)

Since its 2016 launch of smoking accessories and body care products, Marley Natural has been on the forefront of the cannabis lifestyle movement and also features a signature line of organically farmed flower available at select California dispensaries.

As for the new, limited-edition leaf?

“We have access to really rare strains grown in California and worked with Neville to find what he felt represented what he would have smoked with Bob,” says Berrin Noorata, director of marketing for Marley Natural. “We look at him as Bob’s closest collaborator and friend, and we look at our packaging as the ‘album covers’ of our brand, so there is this full-circle meaning in honoring Bob and spreading the message of the enlightenment of the herb.”

Featuring illustrations from sketchbooks he kept during his travels with Marley, Garrick created four labels that encapsulate a facet of Rastafarian tradition he associated with each strain: Malawi (Marley Gold/sativa), Sunset Sherbert (Marley Green/hybrid), Jesse’s Girl (Marley Black/indica) and Suzie Q (Marley Red/high-CBD).

The Cannabist spoke to the artist, author and photographer via phone from his Los Angeles home on Sunday to talk about staying true to Marley’s spirit, how herb gave him the courage to create and the inspiration of Africa.

The Cannabist: How did this special collaboration come about?
Neville Garrick: When Marley Natural was first launching, I was asked to go to Jamaica with members of their team to show them areas where Bob lived and where we got herb from. They approached me again a year later to do the design for this herb.

Cannabist: Was it an easy decision for you?
Garrick: Because of my relationship with Bob, I get approached a lot, and my first question always is, “Is it going to be something that’s going to be true to Bob?” It was a question I always asked myself when I was creating for him too. If it’s not going to inform, educate, and share the humanistic side of Bob that was so loved, then I’m not interested.

1977 photo of Neville Garrick and Bob Marley
Artist Neville Garrick, left, and musician Bob Marley pose for a photo in 1977 in England. (Provided by Marley Natural)

Cannabist: What do you think about the new herb?
Garrick: Back in the day, we didn’t have a million strains, and these new strains are just what we were always looking for, at home and on tour. I remember driving miles from Kingston to try and find the best herb – the strong herb that we knew was grown from female seeds from the ground up. The rest of it grew like weeds. That’s why we don’t call it weed. Wherever we were on tour, we’d try and find the herb first. In Africa it was always the most difficult, but when we were in Zimbabwe, the soldiers brought us this herb wrapped in banana leaves and we’d never seen anything like it before. The Malawi (strain) … that brings back those memories and with just a hit of a spliff. I feel the inspiration … the creativity.

Cannabist: What was your first experience with herb?
Garrick: I’ve been smoking since I was 13 and now I am 67. … I love the herb. I was in high school and we were considered the best athletic school in all of Jamaica. If you were popular in sports, you were considered icons to the Rastafarians, so they wanted to be our friends … they admired us. My first time smoking wasn’t a spliff, it was with a chalice with an older football player who was one of my heroes. I want to emphasize even that first time, it came from a spiritual place – we lit the chalice, we chanted a song, we were the Rastafarian youth. So from that point on, it was a spiritual ritual for me.

Cannabist: You ended up going to college at UCLA to study art. Was that a culture shock for you?
Garrick: When I got to UCLA it became more recreational. The root of spirituality was still there, but I became the guy in the dorm everyone wanted to be friends with. I was from Jamaica … I was sort of already on this higher plane and everyone was just waking up to it. In college, it taught me to investigate and question things … herb gave me that courage to express myself through art.

Cannabist: How does the herb enhance your creative process?
Garrick: I don’t try to create anything unless I have herb. If I have something really good, I am able to create something much better … it’s expansive, but at the same time, makes me focus. Herb takes your mind off the treadmill and gives you the time for yourself and your own thoughts.

Survival Album Cover, Bob Marley
Album cover for Bob Marley’s “Survival.” (Provided by Marley Natural)

Cannabist: Do you have a favorite of your Bob album covers?
Garrick: “Survival.” I achieved what I was trying to do politically and make a statement. The original name for that album was “Black Survival,” so I challenged myself to still show that graphically. All of those flags represent every country independent from slavery and the slave ship represents all of Africa. I like to say about all my album covers: I just colored the music – using my art to enhance what Bob was singing about. And I think this is also one of Bob’s most important albums – more about conscious thought than the just “get happy” music.

Cannabist: What is the most meaningful memory you have with Bob?
Garrick: Going to Zimbabwe (in 1980) when we were invited for the independence celebration to play a private concert for the government and special guests. Bob was no big, rich man yet and rented a plane – he financed the entire trip, which I think was around $90,000 at the time, and insisted on playing a free concert for the people the next day. That’s the kind of heart and wisdom that he had and sometimes goes unnoticed. I think that was one of his greatest achievements, and still brings me such joy.

Cannabist: Where did you draw the most inspiration for the packaging design?
Garrick: All my inspiration came from Africa … the greatness of Africa. That was what Bob was all about – representing the people and being a voice of unification for them. Bob always said, “Education is the key to liberation” … and that “if everybody smoked herb, we’d all come together.” So this is one small way to continue to spread that.

The Marley Natural limited-edition Anniversary Herb Collection is available now in the Bay Area at Harborside Health Center, CBCB, Phytologie and BASA. It will launch later this week in the Los Angeles area at LAPCG, Universal Collective, Beach Enlightenment, Compassionate Healing Center and The Cannary.

First look: Marley Natural anniversary herb collaboration with Neville Garrick