Former NBA star turned entrepreneur Al Harrington is on a mission to make the cannabis industry a Black-owned enterprise — starting with his brand Viola.
Forbes reports that Harrington’s cannabis line is expanding its products to Canada after sharing that Avicanna — a cannabinoid-focused biopharmaceutical company — will be licensing the brand and using it to help develop specific formulations for sale across the country’s medical and consumer retail channels.
The company’s “commitment to research and development of cannabis in the medical and pharmaceutical industries makes them the perfect biotech partner to bring Viola’s brand to our Northern neighbors,” he said.
“We’re excited to announce our partnership with Avicanna to expand into the Canadian market,” Harrington told Forbes. “Becoming the first Black-owned multinational brand is a significant milestone for Viola, and we look forward to expanding our product offering and Viola’s mission into a new market.”
For the use of its name, Viola will receive a royalty fee but Avicanna will be the main source developing these products being sold in Canada.
According to a Forbes interview with Avicanna CEO Aras Azadian, this new partnership represents more than a business transaction, it also marks the collaboration of two minority-led companies that’s been two years in the making.
“We are proud to be supporting Al’s vision and the Viola brand with its growth and expansion into Canada,” Azadian said. “This is an incredible opportunity to provide not only access to a premium cannabis brand, but also a humanist philosophy that our diverse community in Canada can relate to.”
As Viola now expands into new territory, it has a dual focus to continue growing the brand and also create more space in the cannabis industry for other Black-owned companies and entrepreneurs to prosper.
Despite the cannabis business quickly becoming a growing industry, it still puts Black and people of color at the bottom of the chain – playing into the history that hasn’t allowed either of these groups to profit from a business that originally criminalized them for distributing what is now considered very legal.
In order for true equity to exist, Black cannabis entrepreneurs need to have the same access to resources and opportunities that their white counterparts do, says Afro-Tech.
Harrington’s 10-year-old brand — whose products are sold across California, Colorado, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington — has always demonstrated a commitment to social equity.
With initiatives such as Viola Cares — its hallmark charity program — the company is striving to create entrepreneurial opportunities for Black and people of color in the cannabis industry by offering education, expungement and incubation programs for minorities.