In 2012, as Al Harrington’s basketball career was coming to an end—he was a power forward for the Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets who earned nearly $100 million over the course of his career—he co-founded Viola, a Los Angeles-based cannabis company named after his grandmother. Viola grows, processes, and sells all types of pot products, from flower to concentrates to pre-rolled joints. Harrington now has operations in California, Colorado, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington, and generated about $20 million in revenue last year. In 2021, NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson joined the company and Viola launched the “Iverson Collection” line of marijuana products. Just as making it to the NBA is the longest of long shots, Harrington is a rarity in the cannabis world. In an industry that generated $25 billion in legal sales last year, only 2% of companies are Black-owned.
Despite Harrington’s success, the past still haunts him. In 2018, Detroit police raided his legal business, seizing crops, equipment, arresting employees, and freezing bank accounts. The location was closed for two-and-a-half years, costing the company millions. (All charges were eventually dropped.) “Even now, we worry about being killed by the police,” he says. “The fear, it lingers. I’m 42 years old, a multimillionaire, I live in nice houses, nice cars, everything— but I’m still I’m scared. I don’t know how it’s going to end up.”
But Harrington knows how his foray in cannabis started—and that also motivates him. He didn’t grow up smoking weed. Then in 2011, when he was playing for the Denver Nuggets, his grandmother Viola, then a Bible-thumping 79-year-old Southerner, came to see him play. She arrived with a “pharmacy” of pills to treat her glaucoma and diabetes. Harrington said that he had read about the potential medical benefits of marijuana and learned how cannabis could help her eyesight. “‘What is cannabis,’ she asked me,” Harrington recalls. “‘Marijuana; weed,’ I said. She looked at me: ‘Reefer? Boy, you out of your mind if you think I’m about to smoke reefer.’”
Read the full story on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/willyakowicz/2022/04/20/nba-star-al-harrington-viola-100-black-cannabis-millionaires/?sh=7c99bd9d451a
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