Jun 27, 2022 - Business

This Cambridge dispensary caters to women, LGBTQ and older customers

Leah Samura, a Black woman, stands outside what will be her new dispensary.
Leah Samura's mission is to sell cannabis to your friends, parents and grandparents. Photo courtesy of Leah Samura

Harvard Square's first cannabis dispensary — and its first Black-woman-owned business — is on track to open in September, CEO Leah Samura tells Axios.

Driving the news: Yamba Boutique is undergoing architectural review as Samura prepares for its opening.

  • It would be the city's second dispensary. Central Square's Yamba Market — owned by Samura's husband, Sieh, and their business partner, Sean Hope — was the first.

Why it matters: The state's fast-growing cannabis industry remains predominantly white and male, with Black and brown entrepreneurs mostly shut out of financing and commercial real estate opportunities.

  • The state has an application process for license holders who were disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, or who live in communities affected by it.
  • But those applicants often wait years to get approved for a cannabis license while paying rent on empty storefronts, as the Samuras and Hope have.

Zoom out: Massachusetts businesses collectively surpassed $3 billion in gross recreational cannabis sales in May, less than a year after hitting the $2 billion mark.

  • The state collected more than $112 million in excise tax revenue from recreational cannabis sales in 2021 — more than twice as much as regulators projected.

The intrigue: Samura says Yamba Boutique will cater to women, elders and LGBTQ people.

  • "I want [it] to be a space where those of us who are often left out can have a comfortable space to ask questions, be educated," Samura says, adding that she wants to promote cannabis as a sex-positive product and a healing agent.

Details: The 12,000-square-foot boutique occupies a former police station, and will include educational events on the second floor.

  • Samura plans to hire 20-24 employees.

Context: Samura and her husband have broken barriers before.

  • They launched 612 Studios and developed the state's first cannabis-infused lubricants, Purient Bedroom Cannabis, under the Sira Naturals accelerator four years ago.

Plus: Samura is also working to open a dispensary in Allston in 2023 with Louis Freese, also known as the rapper B-Real of the hip-hop group Cypress Hill. She is the CEO and majority owner at the dispensary, where she'll sell Freese's brand, Dr. Greenthumb's.

  • The Samuras are also working with the Williamstown-based cannabis company Silver Therapeutics, which is opening its first Boston dispensary in Roslindale, to lead Silver Therapeutics' City Farm program to educate prospective budtenders.
  • The educational program aims to serve more than 150 local residents a year, according to Silver Therapeutics' website.

What's next: Samura is awaiting the green light from regulators to move forward with Yamba Boutique, with a decision expected later this summer.


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