Al Harrington is a trailblazer. At a time when it seems that yet another professional athlete is making a foray into the cannabis landscape with product launches or endorsements, Harrington preceded them years earlier with his own milestone: In 2011, the former NBA player founded Viola, a medical marijuana operation he named in honor of his grandmother after he saw how the plant treated her glaucoma. However, becoming an entrepreneur in an industry that was legal in only a few markets was a challenge for Harrington, now 40. Compounding the problems were Harrington’s lack of experience running a company as well as the fact he was entering a sector where white men predominate, and women and people of color are marginalized.
But Harrington, who played his last season in the NBA in 2015 and for teams that included the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks, prevailed. Since launching Viola in Colorado, the company has become a thriving multistate operator, churning out a vast array of products in various states such as California, Oregon and Michigan. Yet, as a person of color, Harrington is well aware that his success in the booming cannabis space is an aberration. According to