The first three investors in Levia, a cannabis-infused seltzer brand based in Georgetown, were Marblehead resident Matt Melander, his mother, and his 94-year-old grandmother. And they were very wise—six months after launching in February 2021, the beverage had already reached a million dollars in sales per month. It recently sold to Ayr Wellness in a deal Boston Business Journal reported as nearly $60 million.
Not only is his mom an investor, Melander, who is president and CFO of Levia, says she also occasionally imbibes. “My mom is a classic example,” he says. “If she has one glass of Chardonnay, she doesn’t sleep well and wakes up feeling poorly the next day. With Levia, she drinks maybe half a can of Celebrate and she just relaxes and hangs out and is more present.”
Celebrate is one of the three main formulas the company offers. Lemon-lime flavored and dosed with five milligrams of THC (the psychoactive component in cannabis that produces the high sensation), it is intended to enhance social situations. The two other formulas also contain 5 milligrams each, made with different blends or strains of cannabis to evoke different feelings. Achieve is more of an energizing blend, Melander says, where Dream is intended to induce more of a relaxed tranquil experience. The seltzers are sold in 12-ounce cans at licensed dispensaries across the state for $7 each, and the company also offers a water-soluble tincture in the same formulation.
Melander, who joined the company when founders Troy and Kaitlyn Brosnan were looking for investors, is fairly new to the cannabis space, but he saw the potential right away.
“The beauty of this product is that it is, for many, a reintroduction to something that they had experience with at one point, built into a format that is familiar,” Melander says, noting that a mood-altering beverage fits societal norms better than a substance that you smoke or eat. “We are a drinking culture here in Massachusetts, and across the globe as well.”
Five milligrams of THC is considered a standard dose for a consumable cannabis product, but Melander says how much to imbibe is a personal exploration. “Everybody’s tolerance is different,” he says, explaining that it’s similar to alcohol. “If you give one person a glass of wine, they might be loopy. While another person can drink the whole bottle and still be part of the conversation.”
Because the effects of Levia can be felt within a five to seven minutes of imbibing, Melander suggests that newbies take it slow—pour a bit into a glass, take a few sips, and wait before trying a few more. “Start small,” he advises. “As a society, we understand dosing things in liquid form. Beers are 12 or 16 ounces. A shot is one or one and a half ounces. You’re not going to pour a pint glass full of gin and drink it.”
While cannabis-infused seltzers have made speedy inroads in other states where consumption is legal, Levia was the first out of the gate in Massachusetts. Because cannabis is not legal federally, the actual product cannot cross state lines—from plant to packaging everything has to be done in each state. So in order to expand, companies must build manufacturing and identify sourcing in each state where it plans to offer its product. This gave Levia a headstart over its nearest competitor, California-based Cann, which has recently moved into Massachusetts with its own seltzer but is selling a fraction of the volume.
Melander feels this is just the start, pointing to the success of Sam Adams beer. “Jim Koch started Sam Adams as a craft brewery, which didn’t exist at the time. And now Boston Beer Company is a multibillion dollar publicly traded company. We believe the same is true here…. The beauty is you just don’t have a hangover the next day.”