Al Harrington's Viola Faces Setback in Detroit Amid Insurance Dispute

March 21st, 2024 Business & Industry
Cover Image

In a significant development illustrating the challenges within the cannabis industry, Al Harrington, a former NBA star and the CEO of Viola, has declared an indefinite halt to operations at the brand's only dispensary in Detroit. This pause in operations comes roughly four years after the medical cannabis retail outlet first opened at 4473 W. Jefferson Ave., a strategic location chosen by Harrington for his national cannabis initiative.

The catalysts for this decision are multifaceted, reflecting the broader struggles faced by the cannabis sector. Harrington highlighted that dwindling profit margins—caused by a sharp decline in cannabis product prices—and reduced medical cannabis sales have significantly impacted the business's operational sustainability.

This challenge is intensified for businesses like Viola that are yet to secure licenses for recreational cannabis sales, which amplifies their operational difficulties.

A critical issue for Viola has been its ongoing dispute with Obsidian Specialty Insurance Co., its insurance provider. Harrington revealed that Viola's insurance claims, including those for damages caused by an ice storm in February which resulted in extensive loss of cannabis plants, have been consistently denied.

Harrington expressed his frustration with the insurance provider, stating, "When the people that are supposed to be there to support us — that we actually pay to do a job for us and to provide a service — they don't do it, it's tough."

The denial of insurance claims by Obsidian Specialty Insurance Co. follows a series of mishaps for Viola, including damage from a snowstorm leak and a theft in October, leading to three insurance claims totaling $8.9 million being refused.

In the interview, Harrington discussed the various challenges Viola has faced, not just in Michigan but across other states as well, including electrical outages and infestations. These operational difficulties have prompted Viola to consider a strategic shift towards an "asset-light model." This approach involves collaborating with other growers to cultivate Viola's strains according to its specifications, aiming to lessen the operational load on the company.

The closure of the Detroit dispensary signifies a notable obstacle for Viola's aspirations in Michigan. Despite efforts to obtain recreational cannabis licenses, the company has faced rejection, narrowly missing out due to tight margins and encountering technical problems with their application submissions.

This failure to shift towards recreational sales has hindered growth and revenue, rendering the dispensary unable to reach its full potential.

Despite these setbacks, Harrington remains hopeful about Viola's prospects in Detroit and the wider cannabis market. He is keen on pursuing new ventures under the asset-light model, potentially collaborating with other cultivators to maintain Viola's presence in Michigan. Harrington's dedication to Detroit and to cannabis advocacy is steadfast, with aspirations of resolving the insurance conflict to continue investing in Viola's success within the cannabis sector.

Al Harrington's experience with Viola, from its inception to its current challenges, underscores the complexities and fluctuations of the cannabis industry, providing a compelling case study in the ongoing evolution of cannabis business regulations and culture.

Share this article:

Spotted a typo, grammatical error, or a factual inaccuracy? Let us know - we're committed to correcting errors swiftly and accurately!

Missed an issue? Browse our newsletter archive to stay updated on past news!

Other Recent News

Michigan Marijuana News thrives thanks to the dedication and support of its readership. If you depend on our comprehensive cannabis coverage to keep you updated and enlightened, we kindly ask you to think about making a monthly commitment through Patreon. Every pledge fuels our mission and ensures the continuity of quality cannabis journalism in Michigan.
Become a Patron!

Upcoming Cannabis Events