From star NBA player to the founder of a cannabis empire, Viola, Al Harrington shares his story with JARS in a candid roundtable discussion with We Are Culture Creators co-founder Reyes. In this interview, Harrington breaks down how he got introduced to cannabis and his transition from professional athlete to a cannabis entrepreneur.
Read on for an up-close and personal look into his incredible story and his all-star cannabis brand, Viola.
Al Harrington’s Introduction to Cannabis
Growing up in New Jersey, Al Harrington was never into cannabis as he watched his community ravaged by The War on Drugs. While weed was definitely around, he recalls seeing friends locked up by police for having a simple a nickel-bag of weed. Harrington knew to stay away from weed while it was illegal in order to stay out of trouble.
That being said, when Harrington was drafted to play with the Denver Nuggets in 2010 he began to hear about the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis. Denver had legalized medical marijuana nearly a decade prior and had a robust legal market in place. He still was not tempted to try weed himself, but when his Grandma came to visit him, everything changed.
The first thing she did when she arrived at Harrington’s home was to pull out her massive bag of prescription pills. She suffered from a number of ailments including glaucoma, a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve. Seeing his Grandmother in pain, Harrington felt compelled to do something.
He remembered a newspaper article that detailed medical marijuana’s potential to improve the symptoms of glaucoma. After doing a little of his own research, Harrington suggested that his grandmother try it and was met with a less than warm reception.
She told him, “Boy, I ain’t smoking no reefer!”
Despite her initial disapproval, Harrington got some medical marijuana in the hopes that she would change her mind. He found the perfect opportunity when she was in an unbearable amount of pain one day and was willing to try anything to improve her situation. Harrington gave her the bud, and went upstairs to take a nap so that she could try the weed in private.
After a short while, he came downstairs to find his Grandmother reading her Bible in tears.
“I’m healed,” she said to him through teary eyes.
She had not been able to read her Bible in years, and here she was, enjoying The Good Book. They shared a tearful embrace, both feeling completely moved by this newfound miracle — and his Grandmother’s name? Viola. Harrington went on to give his brand her namesake to pay homage to her legacy.
While Harrington now felt with all certainty the true healing power of cannabis, he had yet to try it for himself. It was not until after a botched knee surgery in 2012 that nearly cost him his life, did he decide to turn to weed instead of the plethora of opiods that doctors prescribed him — but he wasn’t puffing on flower like you might expect.
Instead, he chose to try cannabidiol, CBD for short, to get the relief he so desperately needed. The pain-relieving properties of CBD did the trick and continued to pave the way for his foray into marijuana entrepreneurship. The rest you might say, is history.
About Viola Brands
Founded in 2011 and named after his beloved Grandmother, Viola Brands has gone on to truly elevate the cannabis arena as one of the largest and most successful Black-owned cannabis brands. Built on a strong foundation of wellness, Harrington’s flagship cannabis brand produces some of the finest flower and concentrates on the market today.
With products sold in California, Oregon, Colorado, and Michigan, it is clear to see that Harrington and Viola Brands are here to stay. If you are curious to try this already infamous brand for yourself, come into JARS today where we proudly stock an array of Viola products.
What’s Next for Viola Brands and Al Harrington?
Since its inception, Viola has taken a loud and proud stance on increasing minority owenership in cannabis, reinvesting in Black and brown communities that have been hit the hardest by The War on Drugs, and creating more social equity opportunities across the board — and to put things lightly, Viola has been killing the game.
To date, Viola has committed over $500,000 to partner with, fund and guide six applicants through Phase 1 as well as 20 applicants through Phase 2 of their Social Equity Program in Los Angeles. On top of that, Viola has fed over 20,000 people across four different markets with a series of events, key partnerships, and food drives.
Harrington also recently started his own CBD brand in 2018 called Harringtown Wellness with a focus on creating products for athletes, by athletes. Its line of CBD products called re+PLAY, include CBD-infused topicals, tinctures, and capsules that are designed to provide relief to hardworking athletes and beyond.
While Harrington may be the founder of a nearly billion dollar cannabis empire, his most important job is creating a legacy for his 3-year-old son — cue the tears.
Watch the Full Interview Here
With such an incredible journey from professional NBA player to mega successful cannabis entreprenuer, you do not want to miss this JARS roundtable interview. Simply click here to watch the entire discussion and be sure to tune in for the next one!