Aja Allen grew up around weed. "My older brother had a grow house in our garage at my dad's," the South Central, Los Angeles native explains. "Therefore, I had access at a reasonably young age." She started consuming as a teenager—not so much for fun, but to help her relax. "Many things triggered my anxiety, so I used cannabis as a decompression tool."
Now Allen, who has a background in luxury retail management, is putting her belief in the power of the plant into her work. As one of just 21 social equity licensees in Los Angeles, she recently partnered with the platform 4thMVMT to open the very first Sixty Four & Hope dispensary. Named after Prop 64—which legalized recreational cannabis in California—the Mid City dispensary aims to make shopping for cannabis interactive and informative, with a focus on community through collaborations with local cultivators, and creatives. The space itself is airy, bright, and immaculately organized, serving as a stylish counterpoint to the old school, stoner bro stereotyps so often depicted in other cannabis spaces. And that, Allen says, is the point: "I want to see equity for black and brown people," she explains. "The cannabis industry wouldn’t be a billion-dollar industry without the people who built it on their backs, served jail time, or bore the brunt of the related violence. That always needs to be at the forefront of our mission."
We caught up with Allen to learn more about Sixty Four & Hope, the process of opening the dispensary, and her own personal cannabis rituals. Read on for more.
Tell us about the process of opening the dispensary? How did you connected with 4thMVMT?
The process of opening a cannabis store via the social equity program was long and frustrating. I've been working towards opening for three years now. And between the city, its compliance requirements, and my lack of knowledge around negotiating with vendors, contractors, lawyers, etc., I wouldn't have been able to weather this process alone. This is where 4thMVMT comes in, offering comprehensive support that would allow me to stand up as a competitive business. For example, one of the compliance requirements was acquiring a commercial real estate location to qualify for licensing. Again, this process took three years and I had to keep the lease active for two of those years. There's no way I would have been able to pay rent on a commercial building alone, so I'm incredibly blessed to have 4thMVMT in my corner.
I wish more people would be open to the healing properties of this flower, recognizing that it’s not a gateway drug. It’s been proven to stop brain deterioration in AIDs patients. It provides chronic pain relief, fights cancer, regulates seizures, combats depression and anxiety, treats glaucoma, and slows the development of Alzheimer’s, amongst so many other positive things.
"I wish more people would be open to the healing properties of this flower, recognizing that it’s not a gateway drug."
What’s your current consumption ritual? What, how, and when do you like to consume?
My ritual is using cannabis as a decompression tool. However, I don't typically consume it until the end of my day. And I'll consume socially on weekends with friends. We use it as a bonding tool to help us relax and reflect on our weeks. I usually opt for grinding up flower; I've generally never cared for pre-rolls, but I recently tried Ball Family Farms' Sho'nuff in a pre-roll. Since then, that's been my go-to. It's always fresh and fruity, and I usually go for indica-dominant hybrids with fruity terpene profiles.
I grew up in a home where we followed the teachings of the Nation of Islam. I saw the movie Malcolm X as a kid, but I recently watched it again and saw it in a different light this time around. I was seeing it from the Nation's perspective and not Malcolm's. This time around, I grasped his delivery and powerful community and solidarity messages across all racial lines.
"My favorite self-care high activity is to light candles, steam some eucalyptus in the shower, run a bath in my jetted bathtub, and light up a pre-roll."
Favorite self-care high activity?
My favorite self-care high activity is to light candles, steam some eucalyptus in the shower, run a bath in my jetted bathtub, and light up a pre-roll. I play oldies and have everything I could need and arm's length away in my bathtub caddy, so I don't have to move for at least an hour.
If you had a billboard what would want it to say?
I’d honestly want it to be a cannabis flower—a beautiful feminine flower with rainbow colors exemplifying me and the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in the cannabis space. Along with a quote from my idol to pay homage to those who helped pave the way: “We all have a certain responsibility to those who made it possible for us to take advantage of today’s opportunities.” - Angela Davis
Random thought you’ve been having a lot lately?
Wedding cake! I’m getting married in February, and for some strange reason, out of all the things to think about, the thought of this cake keeps popping up. Random, I know!