ST. LOUIS – Local basketball star Larry Hughes is well-known for his accomplishments on the court. But now, the retired Hughes is wading into a new industry with NBA-sized potential by opening two cannabis stores in St. Louis City.
Hughes’ business partner is a familiar face – former NBA player Al Harrington. Both were drafted in 1998.
“We are excited about these two stores we have in St. Louis,” Harrington said. “We also have cultivation manufacturing and we are excited about the jobs this is going to create.”
Their business, Viola, is the only all Black cannabis company in Missouri. Harrington said the cannabis trade is a trillion-dollar industry and the Black community has very little representation in it.
“Right now within the industry, there are really no resources for us to participate,” he said. “One of the main reasons is because it is very expensive to get into the cannabis space and if I wasn’t a former NBA player I don’t know where I would have got $2 million to start my operations.”
But Hughes and Harrington want to change that by creating opportunities for people of color.
“…There is generational wealth at risk and if we don’t do it, there are many other industries we could mention—rice, sugar, cotton, alcohol, liquor—where we pioneered those industries and we have no representation and no ownership,” Harrington said.
Hughes said he wants to eliminate the stigma surrounding marijuana.
“Thirty-three states have agreed that cannabis has benefit, so why not allow our community the opportunity to play in that space as well?” he said.
Viola will open two stores in April and May of 2021. The first location is on Olive across from the soon-to-be-built MLS stadium. The other store will be on Iowa near Cherokee. That store will offer a drive-thru option.
Each store will create 15 to 20 new job opportunities. The company will also need cultivators and processors, which will create another 30 to 40 jobs.