Former NBA player Al Harrington came straight out of St. Patrick’s High School in Elizabeth, N.J. into the league, and when the baller who was known for rocking headbands getting buckets, and wanting all the smoke, announced his retirement from pro ball in 2015 after 16 seasons, he kept his head in the clouds with a new venture.
Cannabis advocate and entrepreneur.
In 2011, Harrington launched a business that produces cannabis extracts. The company, Viola Extracts has become one of the nation’s leading producers and licensed wholesalers of premium quality cannabis products.
The company is named after his grandmother who experimented with cannabis at Al’s urging as she battled glaucoma and diabetes. The cannabis provided immense relief.
In October, Harrington took his Viola enterprise to the next level by expanding facilities, locations and production while securing $16 million in funding led by Gotham Green Partners, a New York and California-based private equity firm that is actively investing in the global cannabis explosion.
“Over the last five years, Viola has been dedicated to creating and producing quality herbal experiences for our customers,” said Harrington, CEO of Viola, in a statement.
The funds will enable Viola to expand its workforce and deepen its hold on the marketplace.
“As the firm’s visionary, Al has successfully launched the concept and subsequently surrounded himself with a top-notch management team,” said Jason Adler, managing member of Gotham Green Partners. “Further, Al’s background and the company’s mission resonates with a broad and engaged consumer base.”
Harrington was already an advocate for the legalization of cannabis. The experience with his grandmother just reinforced his commitment to the tree life. The power of the plant.
In October 2016, he appeared in an online ad endorsing the passage of California’s Proposition 64. He also wrote an essay for The Players’ Tribune.
In October 2017, Harrington interviewed former NBA commissioner David Stern (RIP) regarding cannabis use by players and convinced Stern that the drug should probably be removed from the banned list.
In February 2018 Harrington announced the launch of Harrington Wellness, a company that manufactures non-psychoactive cannabinoid products, as well as his investment in a third company Butter Baby, which makes cannabis edibles.
All three companies together comprise The Harrington Group.
Harrington’s company cultivates cannabis in-house and has facilities in several states. The company told BE that this latest round of funding will assist with the acquisition of a 34,500-square-foot cultivation, processing, and distribution facility in Adelanto, CA, as well as the completion of Viola’s 48,000-square-foot facility in Detroit.
The US cannabis industry is a booming economic wave, worth billions of dollars in the U.S.
According to businessinsider.com, Recreational marijuana use is legal in 10 US states, while medicinal marijuana is legal in 33. Illinois became the most recent state to legalize
By 2022, the cannabis industry is projected to generate $23.4 billion in annual sales according to weedmaps.
Harrington, who made $98M in salary in his NBA career, took his bag and invested his money in an industry that has monetary, personal, spiritual and medical benefits. As marijuana regulations loosen across the country, lucrative opportunities await those with the finances and knowledge to get in on the culture shift.
The Future Of Medical Cannabis In NBA
In an interview with NJ.com, Harrington explained why he got into the extracts side of the multi-dimensional cannabis business: “Well, one reason was that building a brand in this space is far easier (than flower). Colorado, where we started, is more of a ‘deli’-style experience: The flower is in jars, and the jar’s contents go into this boring, white paper sack. But with extracts, you’re able to create some distinctive end-user packaging to set yourself apart.”
Former NBA players such as Harrington and Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson played some of their greatest games under the influence and praise the non-addictive relief that cannabis provides for the sanity and broken down body of pro athletes.
The NBA Player’s Association represents the growing concerns of current players who think medical marijuana use should be allowed in the NBA, particularly as the science surrounding the plant supports its many medical benefits.
“My own view is that there are substantial signs that support its efficacy and the value that it has for us, especially pain management,” National Basketball Players Association (NPBA) Executive Director Michele Roberts said in an SB Nation interview.
“We’re in talks with the league to see where we can go with it.”
Roberts, a former elite lawyer, is optimistic that public policies and league rules on cannabis will eventually be changed.
“The obvious future is that marijuana will be decriminalized probably throughout the country in short order,” she said.
Harrington is quickly becoming one of the leading entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry and he’s on the cutting edge of a booming market.
The 13.5 ppg NBA career-scorer, is another example of what basketball can do to provide young Black males with an opportunity. His journey and travels playing basketball and his transition into entrepreneurship after retiring is one of the positive examples of an NBA player putting his mind and money to use.
The kid who was born in Orange, New Jersey is on his way to becoming a mythical figure in the legal drug business. The ultimate love hustler, using cannabis to heal the sick and build an empire. It’s truly the best of both worlds.