Sieh and Leah Samura. Sieh founded Mass Bay Cannabis, a private medical cannabis club, in 2012. Now, Sieh and Leah are launching two adult-use dispensaries in Massachusetts. Credit: Kali Freeman / Submitted

Creating a private cannabis club in Massachusetts before medical was even legalized in the state created a doorway for Sieh and Leah Samura into an uncharted market, where they were able to create an unlicensed product for a licensed manufacturer, before landing at the doorstep of a pair of legitimate adult-use dispensaries.

But it all began with helping patients.

“There’s a tremendous need for services. It’s not right to throw sick people to the wild and tell them to figure it out,” said Sieh Samura. “They would invite me into their homes and sometimes they would cry, just for the fact that I would show up willing to help them in a way that they haven’t been helped before and that they weren’t encouraged to get help for despite the fact that they might have been begging and pleading.”

An Army truck driver and gunner in Iraq during the second Gulf War in the early 2000’s, Samura returned home to Massachusetts in 2004 with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Soon after, he learned how cannabis could treat PTSD symptoms, with the help of his wife, Leah. His personal experiences revealed to him how many people needed access to medical cannabis.

Charged with a mission, Samura started the Mass Bay Cannabis private club in 2012 to connect medical patients with cannabis suppliers outside of the licensed market. Later that same year, voters in Massachusetts approved a ballot measure to legalize medical cannabis, with a formal medical market coming online a year later.

As he operated Mass Bay Cannabis, Samura got a crash course on the extent of health situations that could be treated with cannabis. For instance, he worked with numerous 9/11 responders that lived in the Boston area. At the same time, he met with younger patients, such as a college student who wept when Samura was able to successfully explain to his parents how cannabis helped him.

Although the nature of his private club may have occasionally perplexed law enforcement, Samura said he was able to continue operating under the state’s laws for free association.

“I’m very familiar with the law and the rights of medicinal patients and their right to freely associate,” he said.

At the same time, Samura said his club allowed him to make a lot of connections with unlicensed cultivators who would go on to help him with further business ventures.

“What I was able to develop was some very fine weed connects. As a veteran, local cultivators were more willing to work with me,” he said. “Typically it takes a while to gain favor from some of the better cultivators around. because I was a veteran, looking early, I ended up developing some very quality medicinal cannabis products.”

Aside from Seih’s private club, together, the Samuras began developing cannabis-based products.

One of these products, a cannabis-infused personal lubricant, led to the Samuras to join a corporate product accelerator program from Sira Naturals. Their new business education helped the couple to bring their product to the licensed market without having to obtain licenses themselves.

In a market that is increasingly dominated by large corporate operators, Samura argued that working with some of those operators can create a pathway into the market.

“There’s actually another real estate aspect in this market, and that’s the self space,” he said. “If it’s so expensive to get a license to get into the weed business and that it’s controlled by these bigs, doesn’t that mean we should do some business with the bigs?”

With the success of their product company, Purient Personal Lubricant, and by networking through Mass Bay Cannabis, the Samuras were able to find a real estate partner and are currently working on the imminent openings of a pair of dispensaries in Cambridge, Mass.

Yamba Market and Yamba Boutique, which will serve as sort of His and Hers dispensaries for Sieh and Leah Samura, are expected to open for business in the next month.

“We are two of 123 economic empowerment applicants in the Commonwealth,” he said. “We respect it and we use it for the most we can.”

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...