“We’re pioneering something,” says the former NBA star and founder of Viola cannabis, who says he wants to create 100 Black millionaires by funding new businesses.
At the end of 2011, Al Harrington’s 79-year-old grandmother Viola came to visit. When the Denver Nuggets star discovered that she was taking multiple medications for glaucoma, diabetes, and high blood pressure, he told her that he’d recently read about treating glaucoma with cannabis, and asked if she’d consider it. This was Colorado, after all — where medical marijuana had been legal since 2000.
Viola wasn’t interested in smoking “reefer,” Harrington says — but he talked her into it when she confessed that her eyes were hurting so badly she was having trouble seeing: “I said, ‘Well if you’re taking all this medication and it’s not working, I think you should give reefer a try.” Harrington procured some medical bud, helped her vaporize it in his garage, and then went to take a pre-game nap. When he checked in on her an hour and a half later, he found her in tears. She was reading her Bible, Harrington says — the first time she’d been able to do so in over three years.