Former National Basketball Association (NBA) forward Al Harrington says he wants to turn 100 Black individuals into millionaires using the cannabis sector.
One of the ways Harrington intends to tackle this mission is to help 100 Black people through an incubator program that allows black market cannabis products to become legitimate with the help of his company, Viola Brands.
“A lot of brands that are on the black market that have 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 is the founder and CEO of Viola Brands whose focus has been to empower minority ownership of cannabis-related companies by creating a coalition of minority investors.
Many entrepreneurs in the cannabis field, Harrington said, find it “nearly impossible to get a license” to grow and monetize products in states where marijuana is legal although products could have “million dollar valuations” if promoted correctly.
Al Harrington and the Cannabis Industry
Harrington has long advocated for diversity in the cannabis sector and for creating opportunities within communities of color, especially in view of the fact that Blacks receive far harsher prison sentences for marijuana offenses than their white counterparts for the same charges.
“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 said “All this money being made now, we’re not represented; we’re not there. I feel like we pioneered this industry.”
The Viola brand has added new investors from among other former professional athletes, such as NBA’s Stephen Jackson, who made headlines after calling for justice following the murder of George Floyd on May 25 when a Minnesota policeman knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. Jackson and Floyd were longtime friends.
The nationwide protests after Floyd’s brutal murder was recorded on video and seen around the world are still ongoing after three weeks. They have sparked a national conversation around police brutality and defunding as well as dealing with systemic racial and social injustice.
Harrington said he plans to donate 20,000 CBD topical creams to protesters who suffer from chronic pain.
The discussion about the lack of economic opportunities in Black communities needs to continue, Harrington urged, especially in terms of spending power, which reached $1.3 trillion and is projected to increase to $1.54 trillion by 2022.
“What I’m hoping is that we use this time to educate ourselves and realize that we have a lot of power amongst ourselves if we just pay attention and support one another,” Harrington said.
Companies need to offer more than a “big statement that we’re donating money,” but rather to offer more opportunities, he said. “And that’s what my company is all about. I want to use Viola as a platform to educate, uplift, and empower people.”