Rohan Marley on his father’s legacy, his new cannabis line Lion Order, and the little orange nug he never forgot.
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With Father’s Day upon us we sat down with entrepreneur, former professional athlete, musician, and visionary Rohan Marley—the guy with the dad of all dads—to talk about Bob’s influence on his life. After chopping it up about football, weed, and everything in between, Rohan shared a heartfelt message to his own father and fathers everywhere:
“I want to take this moment to give thanks to my father for giving me this beautiful life. Each and every one of us on earth, we exist because of our fathers … I know many of us here on this planet may never have been able to grow [with] or be around our fathers on a day-to-day basis, I am a perfect example.
“But guess what? I love my father every day, every single day. So to all the [children] out there, love your father, be present with your father because without your father you wouldn’t exist … My father is within me, within all of us, and so we give thanks to all the fathers out there. I am so happy to be a father and I love my children. Rastafari love.”
Courtesy Lion Order
58 Years in the Making
Guided by the values Bob ingrained in his progeny, Rohan launched Lion Order, a cannabis line echoing the Marley ethos first introduced via the original family brand, Tuff Gong, founded by Bob in 1965. Marrying the sacramental role cannabis holds within Rastafari to the lucrative stakes of legal weed (minus the sell-out factor) Lion Order is more than just another cannabis brand with a famous name slapped on the label. It represents an all-encompassing lifestyle rooted in personal spirituality, the teachings of Haile Selassie I, and the principles of Rastafari the Marleys have been living and breathing for decades.
“It’s like bread, it’s like water to me,” Marley says of cannabis, “this is my daily life. When I speak about herb, this is not a celebrity thing, this is my medicine. As an entrepreneur, I realize that it’s become a business. So If i can do something as a business that’s my everyday life, it is sweeter to me … This is not a hustle. This is life, a lifestyle, and a livelihood.”
For Rohan, a name is just a name and “‘Lion Order’ are just words,” he explains. The brand, in its purest form, is simply a continuation of the philosophy, beliefs, and provisions his father left behind.
Courtesy Lion Order
The Lion is Always a Lion
The inspiration for Lion Order came to Marley on a trip to Africa. After spotting a lion on a road in the Serengeti desert at dusk, he stopped the safari Jeep and observed the effect the unfazed lion had on the hundreds of frantic gazelle surrounding them. He was struck with a revelation.
“What I realized is that the power of the lion is not in the roar, it is self. It’s the lion being the lion. This awakening came to me and I wanted to share it with the world. I wanted to share with people a way to return to self.
“My father started this movement called Tuff Gong and Tuff Gong is about self. It’s about the man. It’s about the father being the leader for his family and his children and his responsibilities. So I, as a father now, a friend, a family member … I want to share this with them. That which comes from my origins of Rastafari, the origin of the truth of self, the return to self. For I and I as Rastafari people, herb is our sacrament, herb is our way of getting to self.”
While that epiphany in Africa was a turning point for Rohan, the lion has always been a common metaphor in his life. Playing football together at the University of Miami, he and linebacker Ray Lewis became close friends before Lewis was drafted to the Baltimore Ravens. Marley reminisces about their weekly post-college phone calls every Saturday night, when Rohan would talk about “what [Ray] needed to do tomorrow in regards to the game and how he needed to prepare his mind.” Those calls became precursors to the other side of the Lion Order coin.
Marley recounts their dialogue like it was yesterday, “I’d say, ‘Listen, man, you gotta get out there and devour your opponent, you have to eat them alive … remember this: Lion Order! When you get on the field, Lion Order! Be the lion and create that energy.’
“And that’s what I want my children to be, that’s what I want everyone to be. Be brave, be courageous, be in the moment of now.”
Courtesy Lion Order
Blast From the Past
It was also in college where the basis of Lion Order genetics were born. Rohan tells the story of a little orange nug that would stick out in his memories for years to come:
“I remember this time I got a nice little bud, I was in college, it was an orange and gold type of ting. When I pulled it apart, I was like ‘wow. I love the smell of this herb. I love the taste of this herb’.”
He has since spent years trying to recreate that exact terpene profile with the help of Aaron Cole of Heavyweight Heads, a Michigan-based cultivator and breeder, and Jan Verleur of 305 Farms and The Verleur Group, a startup incubator out of Florida which holds significant equity in Lion Order. It was during COVID that Rohan decided to create a cannabis brand with the best flower possible, and to him, nothing could hold a candle to that little orange nug from decades prior. After an introduction by a mutual friend, Mike James, Rohan was connected with Cole and Verleur and subsequently began the tedious breeding process to find his proverbial weed unicorn.
“I’m a Marley, I should have the best herb,” he laughs, while explaining that the flower he’d been consuming previously not only caused headaches, but required a larger amount to achieve the desired result. To put it bluntly, he was tired of buying other people’s weed.
“I said ‘listen bro, I want you to give me the taste I remember as a child. I need fruity, I need those terpenes … I want to taste my herb like I remember it. Can you bring that for me?’ So we went through a bunch of different genetics, crossing and such, and we finally got to the one I really, really love. I’m like ‘yeah, this is it’ … And that’s King Clementine.”
Joined by flagship strains Island Sunshine, Roadblock, Gully Kush, and Hurricane, the proprietary genetics are available as flower, pre-rolls, concentrates, and topicals in Michigan, with plans to expand to other states by the end of 2023.
“It’s a beautiful story to be told. I like that I can do it as a Marley, representing the family and the movement with the right infrastructure.”