ST. LOUIS, Nov. 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Hometown hero and former NBA player Larry Hughes will be opening two cannabis dispensaries and a cultivation and processing center in St. Louis early next year. The new venture, Viola Missouri (VMO), is in partnership with former NBA teammate and veteran cannabis industry executive, Al Harrington and his cannabis company, Village Brands. This new alliance, will benefit from the extensive management experience of best-in-class cannabis operators and the guidance of community leaders like Hughes and business manager, Abe Givins.
Missouri became one of the 33 states who have legalized cannabis for medicinal use in 2018 via the passage of Amendment 2 by a margin of 66 to 34 percent. Currently, more than two thirds of all Americans have access to medical cannabis in their state. Missouri has developed, within its Department of Health and Senior Services, a well-regulated and patient oriented medical program that is currently serving almost 100,000 patients across the state.
"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. 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." – Larry Hughes
VMO shares the name of Harrington's first cannabis company,Viola Extracts that was founded in Colorado in 2011. The brand is named after Harrington's grandmother who used cannabis to treat her glaucoma and diabetes. Over the years, Viola Extracts has become one of the nation's leading producers and licensed wholesalers of premium quality cannabis products. Viola currently operates in Colorado, Oregon, Michigan, California, 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. 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." – Al Harrington
Earlier this year, VMO was awarded four licenses which made them one of 11 fully integrated cannabis operators in the state. VMO also stands as the only Black-owned and operated cannabis company in Missouri. The company plans to generate approximately 75 jobs. Hughes, Harrington, and Givins believe the company's presence in St. Louis is essential to bringing economic development to economically distressed areas of the city and crucial to bringing diversity to the cannabis industry.
"Our state overwhelmingly supported the legalization of medical cannabis because they have seen the benefit that it has been to other states. A lasting concern to the people that I represent, however, is the lack of diversity in the cannabis industry. Communities of color and entrepreneurs of color deserve an opportunity to benefit from this new industry and I am glad to celebrate VMO as they take this next step as a black owned business. I congratulate the VMO team on this groundbreaking and extend a welcoming hand to them as they prepare to serve our city." – State Senator Jamilah Nasheed
"As our state embraces this new industry, working with community is incredibly important. Over the last year, starting before construction even began, Viola has been laying the groundwork for supporting the surrounding neighborhood and building the foundation of a long-standing community partnership." – Alderwoman Cara Spencer
"This new industry represents a new opportunity for our city. VMO will not only provide an essential service but they will do so in a way that is community centered. I am happy about the jobs that their new business will create for our neighbors, but I am more pleased with the level of intention that they have taken to engage with the community as they grow their business." – Alderman Jeffrey Boyd
VMO has identified two central locations for its dispensaries. The flagship dispensary will sit across the street from the forthcoming Major League Soccer stadium at 2001 Olive Street. A second dispensary will be located at 3420 Iowa Street. The dispensaries are slated to begin serving patients in April of 2021.