Former NBA Star Al Harrington talks social equity

Al Harrington of Viola Cannabis

Al Harrington of Viola CannabisEsquire Magazine has a nice feature & interview with former NBA star Al Harrington discussing his Viola brand & social equity in the cannabis space:

Harrington, former NBA star and current cannabis magnate, has been having talks with politicians about weed. It’s been a big couple of years for weed. Legalization is plodding its way through the states, and nationwide decriminalization is up for grabs with a Democrat-controlled Congress. Politicians want in on that record-high constituent support for recreational use.

They also really want in on the tax boom. So Harrington, who started his cannabis company Viola nearly a decade ago, is planting himself in front politicians to bring them back down to the realities of the legal cannabis industry: how it is remarkably difficult for BIPOC small business owners to get in and stay in, a gross irony considering how disproportionally the decades-long crackdown on illegal marijuana has hit their communities. The big cannabis players, most of them white-owned, most of them backed by lucrative venture capital and investor connections, just don’t face the same obstacles to get the limited number of marijuana licenses, to get funding, to stay above water and the law.

The goal for minority-owned cannabis businesses, says Harrington, is generational wealth. Build it, and you build an equitable industry. You win. It won’t happen by magic. It might happen through Viola’s incubator program, which pours as much money as it can (about $750,000 so far) into minority-fronted weed operations that matter to communities—like a family-owned farm in Tennessee that went from growing corn to hemp, an edibles company making weed infused cooking essentials, and a chain of dispensaries in Oklahoma.

It’ll also happen, Harrington hopes, by getting face time with politicians as they game plan nationwide decriminalization, even legalization. For his part, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after his meeting with Harrington, “We know that the war on drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color… Al Harrington is an amazing advocate, and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. Hearing from advocates and those committed to equity in the space, like Al, is vital as we continue developing legislation.”

Here’s one of their questions – many more in the article!

Are there any states or local governments that you think have done enough to incorporate social justice issues into their legislation?

I think Illinois is doing a good job. At least they’re trying… I have to say that, Illinois. Michigan, Detroit area, they drew a line in regards of trying to really give the social equity people a real opportunity. I think Oakland has a pretty decent program. What I would hope to see, with potential federal legalization happening, is one way to operate these programs. It’s like every state is trying to say, “I’m right, I’m right. You’re wrong.” To be honest, I wouldn’t say there’s one program that completely covered all the bases.

Check out Viola on Instagram & read more articles about social equity on the Michigan Cannabis Trail!