Two former NBA players collaborate to launch St. Louis cannabusiness

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Larry Hughes, the man who played for eight different teams during his 14-year stint as a National Basketball Association (NBA) player, has teamed up with another fellow former NBA player to shoot hoops in the cannabis industry. 

Hughes has joined forces with basketball player-turned veteran cannabis industry executive Al Harrington to open two dispensaries in St Louis. The partnership will also see the launch of a cultivation and processing center in early 2021.

Viola Missouri (VMO) is the name of the new business venture, which will be affiliated with Harrington’s cannabis company, Village Brands. 

“I am honored 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. 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,” expressed Hughes.

Active community leader Hughes will also harness the expertise of his cousin and business manager Abe Givins to bring the business to life in Missouri, which legalized medical cannabis in 2018 following the passage of Amendment 2; it passed by a margin of 66 to 34 percent.

 “VMO will serve the medical needs of our community, particularly those suffering with physically and mentally debilitating conditions, including PTSD. I see this next journey as a continuation of the work that we have already done and believe VMO will soon be a model business in our community,” Hughes continued.

Medical cannabis brand was named after Harrington’s grandmother

Back in 2011, Viola Extracts was founded by Harrington in the cannabis-friendly State of Colorado. The entrepreneur’s grandmother is a medical cannabis consumer who praises the therapeutic plant as a viable treatment for her diabetes and glaucoma. Inspired by her journey to wellness, Harrington named the company in her honor.

Since its inception nine years ago, Viola Extracts has matured into one of the nation’s leading producers of premium quality cannabis products. The company’s carefully selected cultivators have 10 years of experience under their belt and their range of 25+ strains are high in demand across five different states California, Colorado, Oregon, Michigan and Washington. 

“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. I have experienced first-hand the benefits of cannabis on improving the lives of many suffering from a multitude of ailments beginning with my grandmother, Viola,” said Harrington, whose business boasts a diverse product line of concentrates, flower and pre-rolls.

“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,” he added. 

VMO will play a role in rebuilding St. Louis’ economy

At the beginning of the year, four cannabis retail licenses were awarded to VMO. As a result of this, the company joined 10 other fully integrated cannabis operators in Missouri. The company prides itself on being the only black-owned company of its kind in the state, where it hopes to create around 75 jobs with the new partnership.

The chosen destination for VMO, St. Louis, has suffered numerous blows to its economy over the last few years. Hughes and Harrington are optimistic that their business venture will help Missouri’s second-largest city begin to recover from the coronavirus pandemic; recent reports state that the city is recovering more slowly than others. 

Former NBA players Hughes and Harrington are also hopeful that their partnership will bring an element of diversity to St. Louis, where two central locations will host the dispensaries a flagship dispensary on 2001 Olive Street and a second dispensary on 3420 Iowa Street. 

Patients are expected to start flooding through the VMO’s dispensary doors from April 2021.