Love them or hate them, some celebrity cannabis brands just make more sense than others. Willie Nelson was no stranger to weed when he launched Willie’s Reserve, and nobody turned their head when Snoop Dogg or Tommy Chong entered the legal cannabis market, because the moves were clearly authentic. So when Julian Marley, son of the iconic reggae pioneer and arguably the most famous rastafarian ever, launched a cannabis brand, it just made sense.
JuJu Royal’s CBD products are available across the United States, and their THC products are currently available in California and Michigan. (Originally, JuJu Royal launched in Washington and Colorado at the beginning of the recreational market, but they’ve since left those states.) The company recently added Michigan to its THC catalog, thanks to a partnership with Michigan-based Aaron White, owner of Great Lakes Aquaculture Processing and attached store, White Flower Cannabis Company.
To kick off the launch, Julian Marley embarked on a series of Michigan dispensary tours back in October of 2022. I caught up with the JuJu Royal team after the visits wrapped up to see how it all went down. Long story short, it was a hit.
“When you think about cannabis, the first thing you think about is Bob Marley,” Aaron White explains. “His family is a staple in cannabis. So having Julian follow in his dad’s footsteps and promoting this in the state of Michigan, it was a big deal.”
Travis Belcher, CEO of JuJu Royal, concurs. “I would put this tour in the top three for sure,” he tells me. “Julian signed autographs, took pictures, and had conversations with people. It was amazing because some of the customers coming into these dispensaries didn’t even know that Julian was going to be there.”
The partnership was brought together by Luxury Kind, a a boutique B2B agency that provides licensing opportunities with athletes, entertainers, influencers, and brands. Bringing Marley, the name behind the brand, to the stores his products launched in, provided a unique and highly-personal touch. After all, bumping into Julian Marley at the dispensary is an experience that would be hard to forget for many.
Belcher recalls the positivity in the air as Julian took the time to take pictures with customers, have conversations, and share hugs and kisses.
Our conversation moves to what it takes for a celebrity brand to be considered authentic, and we discuss the ways celebrity brands tend to miss the mark, mostly by slapping a name on a package or showing up to a meet-and-greet for a quick appearance and then disappearing to the next obligation. (Despite my nosy nature, the JuJu Royal and White Flower team avoid naming any specifics.) It’s easy to see how proud the team is of their organization, and based on the reception from the launch, it’s well-deserved.
“One thing Julian and I discussed early on was that in order for this to work, it has to be real. If the celebrity is not engaged, it’s not going to work,” says Belcher.
JuJu Royal has been available in California for years. For a successful launch into Michigan’s much newer market, the company had to be flexible.
“California is the home of the cannabis connoisseur and the mecca of cannabis. The market is very different, more competitive, and very mature,” explains Belcher. He says he likes the freshness of the Michigan market. “You get a chance to see the differences in real time and see how it affects sales and what consumers gravitate toward.”
Of course, who they chose to partner with played a big part in the success of the Michigan launch. The collaboration with Aaron White of Great Lakes Aquaculture Processing was no random occurrence. Like everything JuJu Royal, the decision to work together was very intentional. And though Julian Marley trusts Belcher to run his company, he is not detached from the decision-making process.
“I carry the message of peace, love, tranquility and healing, the same as in the music we make oh I’m the same in the products JuJu Royal makes,” Julian Marley tells us. “It’s not just a product. It aims to bring a positive message while healing people.” And with that comes careful decision-making.
“Julian is very, very serious about who we work with,” says Belcher. “That’s almost more important than anything else for us on the brand side, because if we have the wrong partner, it’s not going to work. And Aaron is definitely the right guy.”
A key reason the partnership has been so successful is the consideration that goes into product launches. Belcher tells me that White is very particular about product launches and what ends up in consumers’ hands. “Same here on our side of the fence,” he says. “We’re lucky that we found each other.”
For White, the product launch and dispensary tour marked his first venture into celebrity partnerships. He was determined to make sure he did everything right.
“I’m probably fifteen grand into R&D,” he chuckles. “But we figured it out and we’re excited. It was a great weekend and I had a really great time with Julian and his entourage.”
“Though the brand’s launch in Michigan is new, JuJu Royal’s been around the block many times. Belcher tells me that it’s important for In fact, they’re currently on their second generation of packaging. “You almost have to reinvent yourself in this industry every three or four years,” he tells me. “It’s similar to other industries, especially in music. So we’ve taken the time to create the next level of packaging.”
White Flower Cannabis Company launched a little over a year ago, and White tells me that he was determined to stand out from the 500+ dispensaries in the state. When the opportunity to work with JuJu Royal presented itself, he wanted something that could live up to the big celebrity name. “It’s not just another pre-roll, package of gummies, or moon rocks. The pre-rolls are testing at 40 percent and the moon rocks at 70 percent THC,” he says.
How does the man himself feel about it all?
“It felt very good experiencing the launch,” says Julian Marley. “It feels good to see the product getting out there. It feels right to be part of everything.”