Culture + Cannabis + Social Equity + Hope = Ownership – Ending the Racial Wealth Gap
Sixty Four & Hope (64andHope.com), a Black owned, wellness focused cannabis brand, recently opened the doors to the second of twenty-one future dispensary locations spread across California. The self actualized cultural container for the community and social equity-powered brand, is building a legacy that aims to close and outlive the long time racial wealth and health disparities in the United States, starting with their neighborhoods.
The name of the brand is inspired by Proposition 64, which legalized recreational adult cannabis use in California. While cannabis is not the only avenue for manifesting this goal, it is the biggest one for this team, so far, and requires special attention simply because it exists.
Hope is not just about the audacity (or risk) of the goal; it’s about the tenacity of (or the firm hold on) a goal and persistence to achieve it. The Sixty Four & Hope family is steadfast in vision, manifestation and expansion, as they launch location after location like blunts rolled perpetually for a cipher that will never die.
Cruise down La Cienega Boulevard in Culver City or up Melrose in Hollywood, and catch sight of the newest jewels to grace the Black cannabis industry! Sixty Four & Hope dispensaries offer clean, off-white and wood interior finishes, garnished with greenery and chic glass lines that display a plethora of excellent products ranging from flower to topicals, and Sixty Four brand merchandise. Splashes of color and decor represent a tiny but profound part of each store owner.
There is a pervading continuity in the brand culture. While everyone is promised a rich, community-based experience, members of marginalized populations (BIPOC and LGBTQ+ specifically) are additionally guaranteed a safe and equitable experience. The collaborative magic of the group and the mission of the store locations to provide “best-in-class products and immersive sensory events” echoes the principles of African economics and community.
Leveraging Social Equity: About Sixty Four & Hope
Photo Credit: MJ Brand Insights
The Sixty Four & Hope team is a product of collective work amongst twenty-one individuals, who all possess different skills that when brought together become a cannabis business super power. They consider each other family, which only increases the power behind their purpose.
The Sixty Four & Hope team members are the recipients of social equity licensing facilitated through partnership with 4thMVMT. 4thMVMT is a Los Angeles based leadership development program that aims to end the racial wealth gap “by leveraging social equity & removing the barriers to entrepreneurship for POC”. The “trauma-informed” agenda supports entrepreneurial success through mentorship on self improvement and wellness education; by promoting community and by supplying education, resources and access to funding.
The major focus of the mentorship program has been on Black cannabis businesses, and boasts twelve Sixty Four & Hope owner operators to date, with more to come!
“Entrepreneurship is the most effective vehicle for Black and Latino people to exist equitably in America. By removing barriers, we can close the Nation’s wealth, health, and achievement gaps, changing society for the better.”
Interview with the Sixty Four & Hope Team
Photo Credit: Flavor Fix
I had the pleasure of sitting down over Zoom with the first 3 recipients of the social equity licensing and newest (or next in line) owners of Sixty Four & Hope dispensaries, Aja Allen, Rhavin L Klein, and Wally Knott III. The California natives were open, passionate, and inspiring while discussing both existing and future manifestations for the brand.
I am grateful to Aja, Rhavin, and Wally for their enthusiastic participation in our interview. Thank you for your energy!
The following transcript has been edited for clarity and continuity.
Sixty Four & Hope is a group of mutual friends that decided to take charge of their individual encounters in the cannabis industry and turn it into a community building and improvement opportunity. That’s pretty amazing! Please talk about the locations opening and the group model surrounding the dispensaries.
Wally: There are 21 people in the group, and it works as a franchise model. Think of a model like Chik Fil A. Each member starts out as an employee and moves up accordingly. Each store in the franchise will be owned by a separate person, with the order dependent upon the receipt of the social equity license. We operate a familial unit really.
Cannabis business, especially amongst BIPOC and other marginalized groups should feel familial because when one wins, everyone wins, which speaks to our inherent and ancient culture of community.
I really would like to get a little personal for a second. Aja, since you are the owner of the first store, let’s begin with you. I understand that you started in retail sales. What motivated you to move into cannabis? What is your personal relationship with cannabis?
Aja- I spent a lot of time in the retail world before I got into cannabis. I started with Michael Kors, as a sales associate and moved up. It took about six to seven years to climb the ladder. I learned a lot of things in retail, and had some great leaders at some amazing companies. I’ve always had a passion for working for and helping people. I’ve also always been passionate about cannabis, I’m definitely a consumer, I smoke. So marrying the two is like a life-long dream. Being able to help people from a holistic standpoint was just a great fit for me. So when the 4th Mvmt opportunity came along I was like “Is this real?” It felt too good to be true!
I love that you mention the holistic aspect of cannabis consumption! We speak so casually of cannabis sometimes, we forget that it is part of our well being. To me everyone’s recreational use is medical. Equitable accessibility is important.
Aja- As a people, we suffer from things that we sometimes don’t even know about. These traumas fester, and we don’t all go to therapy, we don’t get the help we need all the time. We turn to cannabis to help us deal with anxiety. Cannabis is a medical decompression tool that we have been using for years without realizing what we have. We are our own healers.
Rhavin- I’ve always been a partaker. I never delved into “retail’, never sold weed or anything. I’ve been kinda lucky actually. Whenever I was dating someone, I had access. Never had to pay, but always enjoyed it. Being able to start a business and help my community and relatives locked up for a dub, or an 8th due to ridiculous state legislature is amazing. I always wanted to be part of the change we all want to see. There are still people in jail while our counterparts are capitalizing and making millions because they have a foot ahead off of our backs. It’s important for me to be a part of the HOPE of Sixty Four for our culture and community equity.
Wally- I’m actually a late bloomer to cannabis. I had never tried it until college. I went to
UC Berkeley, where the Bay Area is big on cannabis culture, it’s widely accepted there. I got my first job at a doctors office that was part of the medical marijuana business. It was like I foresaw the “green wave” and I told one of my friends “I wanna be a player in this.”
I tried my hand in cultivating with a good amount of people. We all invested. It was easily the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It was the hardest I’ve ever worked but I lost my entire investment and things just didn’t work out. I was 30 years old and my savings was gone. It was kind of dejecting. Then I heard about the 4th MVMT and it was like a lightbulb went off. Like, maybe I just had the wrong vision. I wanted to start on my own, but maybe bigger the venture was supposed to be with a group. It felt right, like a god-send. Like God was like “I let you fall back so I could bring you HERE!” It was destiny for me. I see now, so I don’t resist the plan…just go with it.
Please discuss some of the barriers you faced on your way to ownership. Was there much support from your family? From your community? Any seed of doubt?
Aja- I’ve always been supported by my peers. I would say the seeds of doubt were more self doubt for me. It took a long time, 3 years of work, and we were always in the dark about everything in the licensing process. The city [of Los Angeles] never shined light on costs, when we would receive final licensing, or when we could open. We just had so many questions around the process. I tend to plant my own seeds of doubt in my head. Like, “Is this really gonna happen?” I put all this time and energy into an emotional roller coaster. Finally I just had to tell myself, “even if you don’t get licensed, if you get no store, at the end of the day you still met great people and learned a lot about the industry.” I knew I wouldn’t regret it either way.
Rhavin- I agree with the process. It felt like we got no help from the city. From my standpoint, there were lots of angry people, lots of lawsuits, “expert” recommendations, and some people were upset. But no one really knew the process and what it took to get to this point. I feel bad that some folks didn’t have financial backing, had no parent company or no platform. People took out second mortgages and still can’t generate revenue.
Despite all that, it’s still extraordinary to be here. I also told myself, like Aja, “At the least you’re leaving the situation, god forbid, with new relationships and a new way of life. You did landmark work, and helped shift thinking and movement in the world. There are positive gains no matter what the cost was…you meant for the journey exactly the way it happened.”
Aja- We went through all that and then it was like Boom- suddenly- Aja you’re up, store number 1 is ready!
Rhavin- Wally was originally store number one, actually! But with building and inspection, the order switched. Aja became one, she was originally number two and I was three.
Aja- They called me and I was not ready… but got ready real quick!
So how did you all end up working together? Did you all know each other before this started?
Everyone- Nobody in the group really knew each other well when they started this journey.
Aja- Except for Wally, Wally knew everyone! (lol) He knew me and he knew Rhavin. But Rhavin and I didn’t know each other.
Wally- When something is just right, it’s right. We all showed up on the scene like “what are you doing here? What are you doing here?” It wasn’t like seeing an ex like, “Awe damn, what are they doing here?” It was definitely good mutual energy. Most of us were acquaintances at least. It was meant for us to work together.
What other ventures do you foresee working on together? What other manifestations are coming from the Sixty Four & Hope family?
Wally- I’ve always had a passion for education, especially for young black people. My mom was a career teacher. I worked in publishing and education technology. I’d like to expand upon that foundation and create scholarships. I want to utilize past relationships in working with education tech and my mom’s savvy to give back to the community and extend what was given to me from early childhood. I appreciate mom being tight on me, so I want to engender education passion amongst my people.
Rhavin- I want to contribute to the financial literacy for black and brown families. I would love to delve into giving young people early financial literacy education. Hearing a young person say “I want to start my first project”- with the right education they can have a pathway to saving money and make money work for them. They don’t have to be part of the hustle and bustle; instead they can start by working for themselves, helping their family and being prominent impactful kids. They will be ahead of the curve.
Non black families have head starts whether it’s family members handing them 10k or loans being more accessible. A proper financial education will help Black kids to branch off and make money work for them, save percentages to help families. They can think in terms of how to expand their dollar early. I got a late start, but if I had known what I know now earlier I would have several businesses and my money would be working even better than it is now.
Do any of you have someone in your life, family or friends that you wish would change their minds about cannabis?
Aja- Yes definitely. My mother. She abused drugs for years and then joined AA and went cold turkey, no weed…nothing. Cannabis is triggering for her because of her long term abuse. We go back and forth the most with cannabis and about the dispensary. I’m trying to help her break the mental stigmas. She suffers from arthritis and utilizes prescription drugs for different ailments, but I want her to see that cannabis can help her if she would just try it totally. She uses a CBD patch for relief, but if you know a little more about cannabis then you know that the CBD needs a little THC, that entourage effect, to be most effective. I’m telling her even a mg would help, but she still refuses. If I could get her to jump on board it would open her up to a whole new world of holistic healing. Prescriptions could be cut in half at the least if she could just try it. I’m working on it.
Rhavin- Everybody in my family is on board with consuming cannabis. My dad though, he used to sell it [crossing the border and all that]. He is still working with that mentality about cannabis, he doesn’t realize how far cannabis has come. He needs a new perspective and to experience different levels of healing. He believes more in prescription healing than cannabis healing, My step dad too. I don’t care what anyone thinks about my involvement with cannabis. I’d just like them to come in and hear testimonies and check things out though. There are people that experience the same pains and discomforts my father experiences. When I speak to individuals that have experienced real healing from cannabis, it helps me. I can’t compare opiate use to cannabis use for pain because I haven’t had pain like that, but I need my father and step dad to hear from someone experiencing the same pains, like some of our customers.I will find the people and help them, it will happen authentically and naturally.
Wally- Everybody on my end is on board. My parents grew up in South Central in the 70s, so they are absolutely on board, but with retail, not little sacks of bud. My dad’s mom has always been sober; she used to be opposed, but she has recently been embracing it. She’s even using a little CBD! I was surprised to learn that she uses it for knee pain, and she was surprised at how well it worked for relief. I don’t really care if anyone is against it but then again, I haven’t dealt with opposition yet.
One synchronicity that you all mentioned is the large age/generational gap in cannabis education. The older folks that feel like “they have been there and done that”, and are hard to reach due to stigmas they witnessed or faced. But you are breaking the stigmas by working and sharing your experience in the industry. I believe your seeds of change wil at least open their minds and expand understanding. It’s our job to bridge the gap!
Speaking of the gap, on the other end of the spectrum, does anyone have children in their lives, offspring or nieces and nephews that they will be responsible for educating about cannabis?
Wally- My responsibility is to young people in general, but I don’t have children and there aren’t many young children in my immediate family that need this conversation. BUt for the young people I believe the conversation should happen in due time, maybe around twelve or thirteen years old. Like, “This is an adult thing, not for you yet”. I believe in allowing kids to be kids. Our conversation with them needs to be responsible.
Rhavin- I have a son but he is two, so I’m getting a pass with the holidays. I don’t need to explain much yet. I did notice he has taken a liking to some of my edible packages, but I’m on it and he doesn’t eat candy, so it’s still not an issue. He’s not allowed at my store either, so I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve got time (lol) I’m just keeping it a buck. He’s gonna know mommy is in television and film and real estate and then for her other hustle, mommy helps people, Right now, though, I’m taking advantage of the time.
Aja- I don’t have children, I have a dog (lol). I DO have a niece, though. She is 10, and it’s funny I was thinking about the convo I’m going to have with her eventually. She is conscious of me, I know I’m her hero. When I go to my moms and leave my jacket behind by accident she knows it’s mine because she knows my smell. My jacket smells like weed and she recognizes the smell bc of me. My niece knows something, she knows the difference between cigarettes and weed. Kids talk, they live another whole life at school!
Now that I have the store, she’s very aware. She’s used to me being in retail so she goes, “Aunty saw your store! What do you sell? I didn’t see that many clothes.” I tell her, “ Aunty has a different store but it’s MY store. I don’t work for anybody anymore. I finessed myself out of the question, honestly. I wasn’t ready. But I also need to have the convo with her mother first, and that will help me navigate. I want to be truthful. “There is nothing bad about what I do. I’m helping people, creating a better life for us and the family and people that look like us”. Tying all that into it will make it a better conversation. I don’t want anybody to plant a negative seed before I get to it. Sooner or later. She still a kid
Okay, we got the heavy stuff out, I have one light question for you guys.
If you could share canna with someone, dead or alive, who would that be and why?
Aja- I choose Pac [TuPac]. He was a gem of his time and exuded so much power. He was actually ahead of his time. Where we are now, he was already there when he was alive. I would love to see what he thinks about where we stand as a people and pick his brain. I’d just listen…
Rhavin- Prince! He loved his people and cared about our wellbeing; donating money to Lauryn Hill her family was down. He started several businesses, was wise and super talented. I’d love to know what goes through his head. He was good with money, owned his masters, did not play games. I’d also love for him to make me some pancakes after we smoke.
Charlie Murphy [RIP] had me hooked when he told those stories on the Chapelle Show. And he killed yall on the court in heels! It takes an extraordinary human being to be so small but MIGHTY!
Wally- Ok, I have three people: Jay Z is my first person. He’s my favorite rapper, so successful. I remember following him when I was younger, I feel like I called it his success! (Lol) I love his music and I think he’s hella smart. I want to ask, “How did you do it? Give me some game..”
My next person is Larry David. He cracks me up, I just want to hang with him and listen to him act an ass.
Leonardo Da VInci is my last person. I’m a huge fan of his work too. Like, “how did you get so good at so many things in life?” He’s one of those people I admire. I look up at what he did just by the time he was 37 years old!
Sixty Four & Hope: Taking HOPE and Making it Tangible
Photo Credit: LinkedIn: Profile Image
There is beauty in what Sixty Four & Hope and 4thMVMT is doing as a family, taking opportunities and expanding their reach beyond the storefront. We are looking forward to experiencing the “cultural container’ and all that it has to offer, from products, to vibes, and everything in between.
Thank you Sixty Four & Hope! See you soon.
I’m Mama Dom, aka Goddess Dom. I am a Magical Mama of 4 precious human children and a few plants. I am a writer, claireaudient, sonic healer, holistic heling coach and a cannabis advocate and user. I own and operate Green Hart Holistic, a plant based kitchen and apothecary. Our mission is to wake you up to the healing power you already possess and help you harness that power using crafted Earth items, including food and herbs.
Written by: Dom Hart
Edited by: Vee Castillo
Herb of Life Cultivation, LLC
Peacock/ Wunderkind CBD
The Botanical Joint
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