Al Harrington, Founder of Viola Brand and cannabis advocate has led the charge for athletes around the world pushing a host of initiatives to the forefront. With an opportunity to shift the cannabis conversation and provide a much needed dose of education, Al Harrington joined Brandon Marshall, Chad Johnson, Chantel Tremitiere and D.J. Williams on the I Am Athlete Podcast.
“In New York, New York just decriminalized cannabis maybe 8 months ago…New York drug arrests in the black community are down 95%…they literally used cannabis to lock us up…”-Al Harrington, CEO Viola Brands / I Am Athlete Podcast
Al Harrington has been a constant voice, advocating for changing and applying pressure, pushing policy makers to do more. In late 2021 Al Harrington joined notable heavy hitters, John Wall, Drake, Killer Mike and Ralo urging President Biden to keep his word and pardon all non-violent cannabis offenders.
Since the legalization of recreational cannabis, the community has seen groups like the Last Prisoner Project raise awareness and move clemency initiatives forward.
Putting Cannabis on Front Stage
Outside of providing invaluable information for the I Am Athlete Podcast community and athletes across the country, Al Harrington also took a moment to shed light on his journey and the Viola movement. Al’s grandmother, Viola, who suffers from a variety of different ailments, found significant relief after implementing cannabis into her life and ultimately inspired Al to create Viola Brands.
“In 2011 my grandmother had come to see me play when I was playing for the Denver Nuggets, and it was a miracle to get her there just because normally she doesn’t fly, right? … When she got there, took her bags downstairs…. and there was a pill bag. She opened up the bag and she took like 30 pills, bro. So I asked my Grandma; why are you taking so much medication? And she had the list of what all black grandmothers have; high blood pressure, diabetes… but when she said Glaucoma. I told her I was like Grandma, I was just reading the newspaper over the last couple of weeks on how cannabis cures Glaucoma…So she finally asked me; what is cannabis? And I was like, it’s marijuana, weed…She’s like Reefer?! Reefer… You really think about to smoke reefer?!…and I’m like Grandma, I’m telling you they said Reefer will help your eyes you know…She’s like, My eyes hurt so bad today. I can barely see. So I said well, Grandma, why don’t you just try cannabis. You’re in a legal state. It’s not Reefer, doctors prescribe this…”-Al Harrington, CEO Viola Brands / I Am Athlete Podcast
After taking a leap of faith, Al Harrington found his grandmother Viola enjoying a moment of solitude and relief;
“I go downstairs…open the door, her backs to the door and she’s looking down..So I said, Grandma, how you feeling? And she turned around and she was crying tears. She said, I’m healed, I haven’t been able to read the words in my bible for over three years. So she was downstairs reading a Bible, the fact that she smoked for the first time… I went into the room and you know, she made me cry. and I called my mother, and she’s like telling my mother like, you know, everything is so bright, and she finally can see again and God gave her sight back. You know what I’m saying? So that’s what inspired me to like really start educating myself and it just opened my eyes that you know, we had been lied to for so long”-Al Harrington, CEO Viola Brands / I Am Athlete Podcast
Today, Viola Brand is a cannabis company founded by Al Harrington with an emphasis on offering premium products, as well as a focus on education, social equity and community involvement. The Viola Brand is working to increase minority ownership with an aim to empower and create a coalition of minority investors who can operate Viola. At the end of 2021, Al Harrington partnered with the Cleveland School of Cannabis to provide equitable access to the cannabis industry through high quality education.