Viola today announced its entry into Washington State. Founded in 2011 by former NBA player Al Harrington, the brand is now the country’s largest black-owned MSO.
A veteran athlete’s competitive vigor is evident as Harrington talks strategy: “We’re excited to get entrenched in the Washington market as we take over the Pacific Northwest and continue out east and across the United States. This is just the beginning of our expansion plan for Viola as we hit the ground running toward the end of the year and into 2021.”
Viola flower and extract will now be available at various Washington cannabis stores, including a dispensary owned by fellow NBA alum, Shawn Kemp. (Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis is Seattle’s first black-owned dispensary.) The expansion comes at an exciting time for Viola.
The brand is now available in seven states and was recently awarded a Stage One pre-approval license in Maryland. And Harrington has been making news as a strong advocate for equity and inclusion. Earlier this month, he announced an incubation program to assist small black-owned businesses. According to a Viola press release, “The ultimate goal of the incubator program will be to create 100 Black millionaires within cannabis, successfully propelling these small businesses forward within the ultra-competitive space.”
The program’s first strategic alliance kicked off with Tennessee’s Gold Standard Farms, a Black-owned farm with a rich history dating back to the 1940s, when it was founded by Fred and Eller Wease Polk. The company’s focus on family heritage aligns with Viola, which is named after Harrington’s grandmother, who suffers from glaucoma and found solace in cannabis remedies.
The incubator program is a continuation of Viola’s policy of actively working to build equity and diversity in the industry. In September, Harrington announced the launch of Reign, a strain grown by Ball Family Farms, the first vertically integrated, minority-owned commercial cannabis facility in Los Angeles. Viola and Ball Family Farms donate $1 from each sale of “Reign” to Root & Rebound, an organization that helps equity candidates enter the legal cannabis market and provides resources to the families and communities most harmed by mass incarceration. Viola is also collaborating with Root & Rebound to release “A New Leaf: A ‘How-To Guide’ for Successful Reentry After A Cannabis Conviction.”
“It is our responsibility as Black leaders to be the driving force and inspiration propelling the culture and our communities forward,” said Harrington. Ball Family Farms owner Chris Ball agreed, adding, “I want people to see that two black entrepreneurs can come together and create something special for our culture and our people. And the weed is fire.“