When Al Harrington’s 17-year pro basketball career ended, he didn’t have a particular post-basketball calling in mind. He figured he’d stay around the game and see what happened.
“Naturally, I thought I would coach and try to help the younger guys,” Harrington tells us from his office in Los Angeles. “And it’s not that I don’t still want to do that. It’s not that I don’t still love the game. It’s not that I found cannabis—cannabis found me.”
In 2010, Harrington signed with the Denver Nuggets, and his time in Colorado left an impression on him. Early in that stint, his grandmother visited him, and she was feeling defeated by glaucoma-related vision problems. Having read up on cannabis in the Denver media, Harrington suggested on a whim that his grandmother, Viola, try cannabis. She was not initially a fan of the idea.
“She said, ‘Reefer?’” Harrington recalls. “‘There’s no way reefer gonna help my eyes. It’s not gonna do nothing but make me hungry.’” But his grandmother soon relented.
“An hour and a half later she tried cannabis for the first time,” Harrington says. “I went to go check on her, and she was downstairs reading her Bible. And she was crying, and she told me she was healed. Those were her exact words: ‘I’m healed.’” It was the first time Harrington’s grandmother was able to read her Bible in three years.
“It humanized it for me,” Harrington says. “It was almost like a sign from God.”
Almost a decade later, Harrington is in charge of his own cannabis company, Viola Extracts, named for his grandmother. Recently, the company partnered up with the cannabis marketing group Vertical to increase distribution of Viola’s products where cannabis is legal.
“Our focus is really to help people,” says Harrington. “And at the same time, we’re trying to humanize this industry by making a lifestyle brand around cannabis.”