Rohan Marley, son of Bob, always wanted to get into the business of weed, though he admits he didn’t exactly know where to start.
Then he met Jan Verleur, another savvy entrepreneur whose own portfolio now includes over $100 million in raised private equity and seed capital for his ventures. The two joined forces in Michigan to help launch Marley’s vision for his now-one-year-old cannabis brand, Lion Order.
“Michigan’s doing excellent,” the Miami-based Marley recently told Green Market Report. “We’re in about 130 dispensaries there. I think we’re capping about $500,000 a month right now.”
Verleur mostly remains behind the scenes, but his journey in legal vice dates well before his relationship with Marley. He co-founded a vapor products technology company that was acquired by JUUL Labs in 2018 in a significant “nine-figure transaction,” according to his website.
After that exit, he created The Verleur Group (TVG), a boutique private equity and consulting firm focused on nurturing and developing early-stage companies, particularly cannabis startups. One of those is 305 Brands, which includes the group’s flagship weed outfits such as 305 Farms, Lion Order, Workers Cannabis, and TableWeed brands.
Green Market Report caught up with Verleur to know more about the backstory behind his management group’s work with Marley, and what the future holds for the two.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Where does this story between Verleur and Lion Order begin?
On a boat in Biscayne Bay. One of our partners was out on the boat and ran into Rohan. He had forgotten his boat bumpers, so we lent him ours so he could tie up. And then we all went for lunch.
I believe it was fate. At the time, TVG had just committed $30 million to Michigan cannabis, and Lion Order was also at a key inflection point and looking for a platform to grow.
What are some of the key terms of the partnership?
The TVG Group has a multi-faceted relationship with Lion Order.
- The Verleur Group has made direct investment(s) into Lion Order and is a minority shareholder in the company.
- TVG Management is the incubator of Rohan Marley’s Lion Order group, providing the backbone for all operations; from accounting to legal, strategic planning, and general business execution.
- 305 Farms, a TVG incubated venture in Michigan, is the exclusive cultivator and manufacturer for Lion Order products in Michigan, and pays royalties to Lion Order Group.
- TVG Vape Design, a TVG incubated venture based in China and Texas, is the key technology partner for Lion Order supplying proprietary vape tech for the brand.
- AE Global, a TVG shareholder based in Florida, is the primary packaging supplier for the Lion Order brand.
What is the business relationship like with not only a Marley, but a Rastafarian entrepreneur in general? Are there any concessions the firm has had to make? Such as business ethics and practices.
No particular concessions. Rohan is a very driven and smart individual who knows what he wants and demands rapid execution in his business. (He) is extremely concerned with the brand image, product consistency and quality.
As a venture capital incubator, TVG is accustomed to working with a diverse group of founders. TVG backs capable entrepreneurs that live, breathe and eat their vision; Rohan Marley exemplifies this in every way. He is the epitome of the Rastafari Movement, in the way he lives his life and the way he executes his business; TVG considers this an asset, not a liability.
Lion Order adds strategic value to multiple companies in our investment stack, and we consider the venture to be a key focus for the remainder of the decade.
What is it like to share the market with other companies that may have their own licensing deals with the estate? Whether it is plant-touching or merch.
The Lion Order product strategy is simple: to offer consumers the same cannabis experiences that represent the sacrament of Rohan Marley’s Rastafari movement.
In every state we operate, Lion Order will be consistent. Lion Order is not a licensing company, it is a “cannabis experience” company. We meticulously curate cannabis experiences that are consistent across all markets. The strains we sell are the strains Rohan smokes with his brothers, his family, and his friends.
Three years of work has gone into developing a proprietary genetic lineup that we believe is unsurpassed in the Michigan market. Our vapes have been designed from the ground up to exemplify Rohan’s tastes, with tropical flavors common to Jamaica. This year, our Lion Order King Clementine strain won the High Times People’s Choice award in Michigan. I suspect we will win a few more awards in 2024.
(And) 305 Farms?
305 Farms was born in tandem with Lion Order, so it was easy to allocate cultivation and production space to support the brand. 305 Farms operates a 40-acre cultivation and manufacturing campus in Lawrence, Michigan. The facilities are space-age, and have already received over $40 million in direct investment.
And there are more phases of expansion planned. The company has municipal approval to stack up to 40 Class-C cultivation licenses and processing licenses on the campus. No other piece of ground in the state of Michigan is approved to grow this much weed. Over 80 personnel on the campus are dedicated to the Lion Order mission. The farmers love every time Rohan comes for a visit to inspect the crops.
What are the expansion plans? Rohan mentioned New York (entry), but what other markets?
Lion Order is planning to add four additional markets in 2024. Two of these markets will be Massachusetts and Ohio, we will reveal further details soon. Our 5 year mission is to be in 25 markets.
How does Lion Order’s growth story look different than, say, a celeb brand such as Cookies’ model?
Cookies grows license agreements. Lion Order grows herb.
Buy a Cookies product in Michigan and then try to find the same exact product in California — good luck. In our first nine months selling, Lion Order already had total consumer sales in Michigan of over $5 million dollars. In 2024, that number will double.
People appreciate great products that deliver an experience. Every cannabis strain and every vape we sell exemplifies the Rastafari ideal of the perfect herb experience. Our consumers are loyal, and our product sell through is unprecedented in our first launch state of Michigan. So far in 2023, Lion Order products manufactured by 305 Farms are achieving >30% higher prices than the current industry average price per pound.
What are you most excited about when it comes to Lion Order?
New market launches for our cannabis products. And the launch of Lion Order merchandise and textile products, expected in 2024.