Al Harrington’s cannabis products are finally reaching Canada.
According to information procured exclusively ahead of an official announcement, cannabinoid-focused biopharmaceutical company Avicanna (also featured in this Forbes article) will be licensing the brand of the NBA star, Viola, and using it to create specific formulations for sale across medical and consumer retail channels in Canada. Viola will receive a royalty fee for the use of its name, but Avicanna will ultimately develop the products being sold north of the border.
For Aras Azadian, CEO of Avicanna, this partnership has a deep personal meaning. It’s the coming together of two minority-led companies, and the result of two years of collaboration.
“We are proud to be supporting Al’s vision and the Viola brand with its growth and expansion into Canada,” said Azadian said in an interview. “This is an incredible opportunity to provide not only access to a premium cannabis brand, but also a humanist philosophy that our diverse community in Canada can relate to.”
“Additionally, being headquartered in Toronto, one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, our diverse management team sees the launch of Viola in Canada as a chance to lay the foundation for Viola’s mission of representation and reform in the Canadian cannabis space,” he added.
Cross-Border Social Equity
10-year-old Viola is not just known for its quality products sold across California, Colorado, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington, but also for its commitment as a brand to social equity. Through initiatives like Viola Cares, the company seeks to create entrepreneurial opportunities for communities of color in the cannabis industry, offering education, expungement and incubation programs for minorities.
Discussing the partnership with Avicanna, Viola CEO Al Harrington also seemed very excited and personally invested.
The company’s “commitment to research and development of cannabis in the medical and pharmaceutical industries makes them the perfect biotech partner to bring Viola’s brand to our Northern neighbors,” he said.
“We’re excited to announce our partnership with Avicanna to expand into the Canadian market. Becoming the first Black-owned multinational brand is a significant milestone for Viola, and we look forward to expanding our product offering and Viola’s mission into a new market,” he added.
Earlier this year, Harrington and Avicanna had inked a deal under which the athlete’s CBD brand re+PLAY would use the Canadian company’s proprietary product formulas. According to Harrington and Azadian, the partnership came after months of collaborative R&D.
Beyond this partnership, Avicanna, traded both in the U.S. and Canada, is a vertically integrated company, with biopharmaceutical R&D and retail activities in Canada, and cultivation and retail operations in Colombia. Back in 2017, it became the first cannabis-focused company to be admitted into Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centre, JLABS @ Toronto, where it still conducts most of its R&D to date.