We’re always striving to bring our readers fresh and exciting cannabis content that educates people and advocates for the plant we all know and love. For many consumers, cannabis is a lifestyle that extends beyond simply getting high. Cannabis enthusiasts enjoy consuming marijuana for a variety of different reasons, in a variety of different formats. There are many different ways to incorporate cannabis into one’s lifestyle, and with those ways come many different stories.
On the theme of cannabis storytelling, we’re excited to bring you Into the Weeds, a unique podcast specializing in conversational flow and intriguing guests. Together with Into the Weeds, we’ll be releasing a series of very special content aimed at showcasing stories from some of the cannabis industry’s biggest names and influential figures. Join Into the Weeds hosts Ben Rispin (musician/advocate, MJR Label Genetics, Rules, Saint Alvia Cartel), Efrem Martinez-Shulz (musician/entrepreneur, Death by Stereo, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Programme Skate & Sound) and Canadian cannabis industry expert Bubba Nicholson (Grey Beard Cannabis) as they learn and discover more about the cannabis lifestyle, industry, and how people have gotten “Into the Weeds.”
This week’s edition of Into the Weeds (ITW) focuses on NBA veteran Al Harrington, founder of Viola Brands. Throughout the episode, Harrington discusses his career in the NBA, his company, who it was named after, his passion for the plant and how it alleviated his grandmother’s glaucoma. He also discusses his part in promoting and advocating for Proposition 64 (The Adult Use of Marijuana Act), California’s cannabis legalization bill.
From NBA to Cannabis, Al Harrington and Viola Brands
Born in New Jersey, it wasn’t long before Al Harrington became immersed in the basketball world and on his way to a prolific professional career. In 1998, at only 18 years old, he was drafted by the Indiana Pacers. Harrington went on to play six seasons with the Pacers, followed by stints with the Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards. All said and done, Harrington played 16 seasons in the NBA before retiring to focus on another passion, cannabis.
Shortly after retiring from the NBA Harrington launched Viola Brands, a concentrate-focused business that now operates across several states and has grown to be an industry leading producer and wholesaler of cannabis products. He has also launched a CBD company, Harrington Wellness, and invested in a minority-owned, woman-led edibles company, Butter Baby.
It’s not hard to see that Harrington has an incredible spirit and outlook on cannabis. His story is inspiring and it’s incredible to see and hear first hand. Outspoken and activated, Al Harrington is a shining example of what a cannabis entrepreneur and advocate should be. Despite his already impressive list of accomplishments, Harrington continues to promote and advocate corporate cannabis supporting the black community and all people of color in the cannabis community.
Cannabis in the NBA and Pro Sports
It’s amazing where a silly little podcast about weed can bring you. ITW never thought they would be chatting with former NBA stars. It’s amazing that NBA stars are even talking publicly about cannabis. In the past few years we’ve seen cannabis creep into the mainstream discussion in almost every major sport league, including the NBA.
Al Harrington even went so far as to have a formal sit down conversation with former NBA commissioner, David Stern, about cannabis use in the NBA. During the discussion, which touches on how cannabis legalization has impacted pro sports policies, Stern mentions that he was aware that not only were many of the players smoking but that they were “coming into the games high.” Stern also endorses medical marijuana after citing Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s extensive reporting on the topic on CNN.
More recently, the NBA made headlines when they announced that they would not be conducting random drug testing for marijuana for the 2021-22 season. This statement is a continuation of the policy that was put in place during the COVID-19 “restart bubble,” where the NBA first announced they would not be testing for cannabis.
These strides were made possible by brave people like Al Harrington. For some of us in areas of the world where cannabis has been legalized, these accomplishments can fade with the constant inundation of new information, scientific achievements, and policy wins in favor of cannabis legalization. It’s important that we continue to acknowledge the advocates who pushed prior to legalization, and continue to make regulated cannabis the industry we all hope it can be.
Continuing Cannabis Advocacy
To say that cannabis legalization stands on the shoulders of giants is an understatement. Especially when considering how much work still needs to be done as far as destigmatizing, inclusions, and education. Work that people like Al Harrington continue to do to this day.
For the ITW crew it was an incredible honor meeting and getting to interview Al. His courage, success and continued advocacy will go down in history with other influential activists of the marijuana movement. As the world continues to legalize cannabis, Al Harrington will certainly continue to be a trailblazing thought leader for years to come. We hope more community leaders like Harrington continue to come forward and represent cannabis in such responsible and practical ways.
The podcast isn’t all serious though and they definitely had some genuine laughs and personal moments along the way. Harrington even remembered the ITW crew a few months later when they ran into him in Las Vegas. They were “the dope Canadians with the spot in the hills.” We sincerely can’t wait to see what he does next and hope you all find this episode interesting and educational.
Thanks for telling us how you got into the weeds, Al. It was a real pleasure.