Article by Sam Riches, The Growth Op
Al Harrington and Larry Hughes were both drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1998 and would later become teammates in the twilight of their careers.
Now Harrington and Hughes have joined forces once again to open two cannabis stores in St. Louis, Mo.
“We are excited about these two stores we have in St. Louis,” Harrington told OzarksFirst.com. “We also have cultivation manufacturing and we are excited about the jobs this is going to create.”
The venture, Viola Missouri (VMO), is part of Harrington’s cannabis company, Village Brands.
“I am honoured to bring VMO to life in St. Louis. Over the course of my career in the NBA, and since my retirement, I have focused my energy and resources on being a positive influence in this community,” Hughes says in a statement.
“I have championed efforts to break the stigma around mental health and spent a great deal of time helping to develop this city’s young leaders. VMO will serve the medical needs of our community, particularly those suffering with physically and mentally debilitating conditions, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” he adds.
Missouri legalized medical cannabis in 2018 and the state’s medical program is currently serving about 100,000 patients.
“Our state overwhelmingly supported the legalization of medical cannabis because they have seen the benefit that it has been to other states,” says State Senator Jamilah Nasheed. “A lasting concern to the people that I represent, however, is the lack of diversity in the cannabis industry. Communities of colour and entrepreneurs of colour deserve an opportunity to benefit from this new industry and I am glad to celebrate VMO as they take this next step as a Black-owned business.”
Harrington, who founded his first cannabis company in 2011, has long advocated for more Black ownership in the sector.
“As the largest Black-led and owned multi-state cannabis operator in the United States, Viola has experienced great success leading with purpose every step of the way,” he says. “VMO is an exciting new opportunity that will allow us to serve a community that just recently was granted access to medical cannabis and one of which is still actively working to combat the stigma associated with cannabis use.”