Former NBA star Al Harrington is on a mission to build 100 Black millionaires through cannabis. The cannabis industry is reportedly worth $25 billion but only 2% of companies are Black-owned.
In this regard, Harrington seeks to create Black millionaires in the cannabis industry via his company Viola Brands, a premium cannabis company that specializes in flower strains, concentrates, and accessories. He is hoping to achieve this through Viola’s incubation program launched two years ago, which allows black market cannabis products to turn legitimate, according to CNBC.
“A lot of brands that are on the black market that has a lot of credibility and unbelievable following, have market share, but they just don’t know how to get into the legal market,” Harrington told CNBC.
Harrington’s company has since invested around $700,000 into four companies, including Mezz, a vape and pre-roll company, and Butter Baby, which makes THC-infused butter to use in baking. Harrington takes between a 10% to 25% stake in exchange for help with marketing and fundraising, according to Forbes. So far, one of the amazing stories from his incubator program is the hemp company Gold Standard Farms, which minted one of the NBA star’s first cannabis millionaires.
Cannabis is currently legal in some form in 37 states and the industry is expected to generate $65 billion in annual sales by 2030. Harrington has always called for diversity in the sector, hoping that more people of color are given the legal license necessary to work with.
“That is something I will continue to harp on; continue to bring awareness to because once again, I feel like the war on drugs was aimed towards our community, and they used cannabis as pretty much the main drug to continue to lock us up,” Harrington told CNBC recently. “All this money being made now, we’re not represented; we’re not there. I feel like we pioneered this industry.”
Viola was founded in 2011 by the NBA veteran. He was inspired to launch the brand by his grandmother, Viola, who suffers from glaucoma and diabetes and found solace in cannabis remedies. Viola is known for its wide variety of product offerings, from high-quality flowers to premier butane extracts. From regulation to representation and reform, Viola’s mission is to create opportunities for communities of color in the cannabis industry.
The brand integrates the latest cutting-edge technology with its own proprietary processes designed for every stage of cultivation, extraction and production. Viola operates in California, Colorado, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington. It recently raised $13 million from investors to expand to Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
So far, Viola has raised $34 million and is valued at over $100 million, Forbes said. Harrington owns about 40% of the company, having invested $6 million. Other investors include former NBA players like J.R. Smith, DeMarcus Cousins, Ben Gordon, Josh Childress and Kenyon Martin.
The company now has plans to open two dispensaries and a cultivation site in St. Louis later this year. Harrington already signed a licensing deal to bring Viola to Canada last year.