Q&A: NBA Player Al Harrington Passes the Joint
Retired NBA baller Al Harrington learned about the potential benefits of medical marijuana alongside his grandmother — and now he’s heading two cannabis companies.
Al Harrington is no stranger to pain. After 16 seasons battling it out on the basketball court with some of the best professional athletes in the world, the former Indiana Pacer understands just how much the human body can withstand before it starts to break.
Throughout his career, Harrington endured a number of injuries, some of which threatened to bring his game to an end. But it was only after he discovered the healing benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) that his attitude toward recovery changed.
Harrington has since spun his appreciation for cannabis into an entrepreneurial slam dunk with his companies Viola Extracts and Harrington Wellness. These operations produce a variety of medical marijuana products, such as live resins and CBD cream, for both athletes and the average citizen living with chronic pain. Cannabis Now Magazine recently caught up with Harrington to discuss his dedication to the herb.
Cannabis Now Magazine: You didn’t use marijuana in your younger years. How did you get involved with the cannabis industry?
Al Harrington: I was in Colorado. Everybody was talking about the benefits of cannabis, the business of cannabis. How I got interested in it was through my grandmother. She had come to see me while I was playing for the Denver Nuggets and two days before I had been reading about how cannabis helped glaucoma. So while my grandmother was there she was telling me about how bad her eyes hurt and how she had glaucoma. So I just told her ignorantly, “I was just reading the other day that cannabis actually helps glaucoma.” And she’s like, “Boy, I’m not smoking no reefers. You better get out of my face.” So I said, “You’re taking all this medicine and you’re still in pain. At least give it a shot.” She was still like, “No!”
The next day, I had a game, and she’s sitting in my kitchen with her hands on her face. I said, “Grandma, are you sure you don’t want to give it a try? It will be between you and I. It’ll just be our secret.” So finally, I was able to convince her. We vaporized something called Vietnam Kush. I took her downstairs and I went and took my pregame nap. About hour and a half later, I went to check on her. I said, “Hey Grandma, you OK?” She was crying and she said, “I’m healed.” I mean, we were both stand in the doorway crying. At that point, I started reading up on it and seeing that it helps kids with epilepsy and even helps people that are terminally ill have a better quality of life. That how I got into cannabis.
Now that you’re a part of the cannabis industry, you’ve probably sampled just about everything legal marijuana has to offer. What is your preferred method of consumption?
I’ve sampled a little bit of everything. I prefer to vape. I like vaping just because it doesn’t have that loud smell. I can actually vape right in front of the kids and not be a nuisance. From the point of maintaining my body with CBD, I like to use a lot of the creams.
If you were given five minutes alone with President Donald Trump, what would you say to inspire him to rethink his anti-pot position?
All I would talk about the entire time is research. That’s the issue. I just feel like everybody’s making comments and they have no factual information. I’ve heard so many stories from people, where I feel like cannabis has actually almost cured them. But we can’t make those types of statements. But the proof is in the pudding. The stories are real.
Do you think marijuana can benefit NBA players on the court?
I think so, man. I mean it’s not about on the court. Like I would not sit here and say that I think players should smoke weed before they go out and play in a professional basketball game. What we’re talking about is after the game. I use myself as an example. I’ve had a couple major injuries, but I’ve always had knick-knack problems. I took [anti-inflammatories] morning and night. That was the only way I could be the best that I could be at my job. Who knows what I put my body through compared to if I had used cannabis? Since my introduction to CBD, I’ve had three more surgeries. And after each, I got prescribed Vicodin and OxyContin. I promise I have not taken them. I use cannabis and I use CBD. I love that I now have that option. There are just so many beneficial things that the plant provides. That’s why I’m such a big advocate.
Larry Bird was one of your coaches during your time with the Pacers. If you had ever passed him a joint, would he have hit it or would he have benched you?
I think he would have hit it. Larry Bird is old school, man. All of those old school players used to smoke. I think at the time that they played, they got one drug test to start the season. And after that, they did whatever.
Have any current NBA players reached out to you for advice on medical marijuana?
Yes. But their main question is: Am I going to get in trouble for using it? Because of how much I respect my relationship with these guys, I tell them I don’t know. If I can get these guys to try it in the summertime, when they’re not on the clock, and if they see that it works, then they can start going to the NBA and saying, “Look, I tried this CBD cream. It really worked.” At the end of the day, the league has got to start taking notice.
Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.
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