While the focus of NBA fans may be on the bubble in Orlando, at least one former player has all eyes on Southern California. As the founder of Viola, which describes itself as “a nationwide leader in the production and sale of premium quality cannabis products,” Al Harrington is one of a growing number of former players to have transitioned from the court to the legal cannabis industry.
It’s also worth noting that many current players also consume cannabis, which has subsequently led to an evolving position on the matter from Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA. According to an anonymous NBC Sports survey of active players, the estimated rate of cannabis use was somewhere between 50% and 70%.
The jury is still out on whether the right sativa can make your swish all the sweeter but it’s pretty evident the experiment is still being conducted by players on teams across the league. Meanwhile, Harrington has established himself as a legitimate figure in the nascent adult-use cannabis industry.
Founded in 2011, Viola Extracts is named for Harrington’s grandmother, who suffers from glaucoma and diabetes but finds “solace in cannabis remedies.” Currently serving customers in Colorado, Oregon, Michigan, California, Arizona, and Nevada, this is no pet project for the one-time Golden State Warrior. Instead, Harrington has amassed a sizeable slice of the pie.
Impressively, he is now looking to leverage his influence to put some wind in the sails of Black-owned and operated cannabis companies. Thus, a partnership with Ball Family Farms — the first vertically integrated, Black-owned, commercial indoor grow facility in Los Angeles.
Founded by Chris Ball in 2018, Ball Family Farms has become popular for strains like their Bonsai, Miyagi-Do, and Laura Charles. Their stated priorities include “equal pay, diversity and inclusion, and women’s career empowerment.” The brand also stipulates that while Ball Family Farms “may be black-owned, [we] are diversely-operated.”
A press release announcing the partnership between Viola and Ball Family Farms emphasized the importance of two Black-led cannabis companies coming together as a means of increasing awareness about social inequities that affect communities of color.
“Harrington, a pioneer in the industry and Ball, a social equity cultivation license holder, share a passion for minority inclusion in cannabis,” it states. “More than ever, it is imperative that minority-owned companies — rooted in shared values — work together to prioritize equitable opportunities for people of color. For many who look like Harrington and Ball, the war on drugs has left them incarcerated, broken, and impoverished. However, with Viola and Ball Family Farms’ help and leadership, the adult-use cannabis market offers a unique opportunity for people of color, historically excluded from such emerging markets, to create equity and build generational wealth.”
That leadership is taking the form of a $1 donation from each sale of their collaborative Reign strain release. The recipient is Root & Rebound, an Oakland-based organization “helping those formerly convicted of nonviolent cannabis crimes successfully enter the legal cannabis industry.” Currently serving communities across California and South Carolina, the work of Root & Rebound — which takes the form of legal advocacy, public education, policy reform, and litigation — is exactly what Harrington says the industry needs more of right now.
“It is our responsibility as Black leaders to be the driving force and inspiration propelling the culture and our communities forward,” said Harrington via the release. “I am proud to have partnered with a fellow Black-owned cannabis brand that shares similar values as Viola. Together with Chris Ball and Ball Family Farms we have combined forces to create a group economic initiative through our launch of Reign: a representation of our strength united as one, empowering Black and minority communities for future generations to come.”
Added Ball: “I want people to see that two black entrepreneurs can come together and create something special for our culture and our people. And the weed is fire.”
That weed, which is advertised as having a “powerful sedative effect” and transporting consumers to a “dream-like state of mind” hit select shelves across California on September 19.
Images courtesy of Viola Brands and Ball Family Farms