The former NBA player and now cannabis businessman, Al Harrington, announced his new incubator program for Black cannabis entrepreneurs. He said that his mission is to turn 100 Black individuals into millionaires by helping them get into the legal cannabis space. Harrington, CEO of cannabis company Viola Brands, says that his program will allow black market cannabis products to turn legitimate through his company.
“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. He added that some of those products could be worth millions with proper promotion and distribution. Harrington also highlighted that most people find it “nearly impossible to get a license” to grow, process or sell cannabis in the states where it’s legal.
This program seeks to increase the participation of the Black community in the cannabis space. Harrington has been a strong advocate for diversity in the sector, pointing out that Black people are not only heavily targeted and receive harder punishments for cannabis-related offenses, but they also have an insignificant share of a market that is dominated by White men.
“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. All this money being made now, we’re not represented, we’re not there. I feel like we pioneered this industry.”
Harrington stated that he wants to bring awareness to Black communities and their influence, calling for unity amongst Black people to bring justice and inclusion in the cannabis industry and all industries. “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.”
He added that companies should do more than just donate money and instead focus on offering opportunities. “That’s what my company is all about. I want to use Viola as a platform to educate, uplift, and empower people.”
Viola Brands has received investments from several Black athletes, including Stephen Jackson, also a former NBA player. Jackson was close friends with George Floyd, the Black man murdered in Minneapolis by a police officer, and became a strong voice in the fight for racial justice. “We’re going to continue to support him as he supported us,” said Harrington about Jackson, who also announced a donation of more than 20,000 CBD topical creams for protesters who suffer from chronic pain.