Cannabis isn't a game for Al Harrington.
The NBA veteran, who retired in 2015 after 16 seasons, takes the industry very seriously. He's also not one to mince words, which makes him an ideal speaker for the upcoming Virtual Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference on June 1.
For proof, revisit the recent Q&A he did with Benzinga's Patrick Lane and Jason Raznick for the recent Benzinga Cannabis Hour. Harrington blasted California's social equity program as a "disaster" and promised to wield his celebrity to promote marijuana reform and help people of color launch cannabis businesses.
"I can spend $4 million of my own money without investors ... and I still have an issue raising money," he said. Most people are at a disadvantage because they can't access the typical financing channels that small businesses or entrepreneurs in other industries are able to utilize, he explained at the time.
"Think about the regular mom who works 9 to 5 and has a cool edible [idea]," he added.
Loans and access to commercial banking — including federal financial aid relief — are unavailable. "That's one of the things our company is about — purpose," he said. "Uplift people of color to the opportunities in the industry and how to take advantage of them."
Harrington will discuss his personal mission and more at the seventh installment of Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference. He and other pot professionals from around the world will assemble — virtually — for a full day of keynotes, panel discussions, fireside chats, networking and company presentations.
Harrington will join fellow NBA star Isaiah Thomas for a panel discussion following Caliva CEO Dennis O'Malley's keynote kick off at 10 a.m.
Harrington's startup is backed by Gotham Green Partners. The company recently purchased a 34,500-square-foot cultivation, processing and distribution facility in Adelanto, California.
It also completed a deal for a 48,000-square-foot facility in Detroit.
Viola produces a range of cannabis products that are available in Colorado, Oregon, Michigan and California.
The brand is named after and inspired by Harrington's grandmother, who suffers from glaucoma and diabetes and was able to alleviate the symptoms only after switching from prescription pills to cannabis remedies, he said.
"She looked at me and said 'Al, I'm healed. I haven't been able to read the words in my bible in over three years.'" Harrington recalled in the interview. "I remember arriving to [a] game in disbelief, wanting to know more. That's what started me on my journey."