Looks like Massachusetts is getting LIT
There’s a new cannabis flower brand in Massachusetts, and it’s LIT.
Ayr Wellness, one of the largest publicly traded cannabis companies in the United States, recently announced that it partnered with Lit to bring its line of cannabis genetics to its Massachusetts dispensaries.
Lit is the latest West Coast cannabis flower brand that is trying to make the jump to the East. Short for Lost In Translation, the brand was co-founded by Ray Schiavone, who originally launched it in Nevada with Tahoe Hydroponics Company.
Last week I tagged along on a tour of Ayr’s operations in Massachusetts, starting at their new dispensary in Watertown and ending with a tour of their cultivation facilities in Milford, with a stop at the Summit Lounge at the end of the day so that we could actually sample LIT’s wares in a legal setting.
Speaking to the media at the open house in Ayr’s Watertown dispensary, Schiavone didn’t seem too concerned that growing cannabis at such a large scale with a multi-state operator would have a negative impact on product quality.
“The guys that actually hunted these strains with us back in the day are the same guys who are flowering them here in Massachusetts," he said. “Eventually, as we all learn these new facilities and become better, the goal is that you’ll be able to try something in Massachusetts and it will be the same as something you try in Nevada or Florida from us.”
He also seemed to understand some of the inherent challenges in operating in multiple states.
“It’s a huge feat to conquer, and we’re definitely not there yet. I don’t think anyone has done that successfully yet,” he said, referring to having success growing a consistent product across the country. “I think we have as good of a shot as anybody.”
Prices for LIT flower products are currently set at $40-$45 an eighth. The brand lists its flagship strains as Bubble Bath, WAP 27 and Temptation, and has created a strain called Boston Tea Party #22 in celebration of their Massachusetts launch.
Ayr Wellness is just the latest name for a company that has gone through a number of identities since first applying for a medical cannabis license in 2013. Starting its life as a company called Bay State Releaf, the company changed its name to Milford Medicinals before it received its first license from the state. After plans to open a dispensary alongside their cultivation in Milford changed, the company decided to then change its name to Sage Naturals. However, conflicts with another local business that shared a similar name forced them to audible once again, leading them to change their name to Sira Wellness.
In 2019, Sira was acquired by Ayr Wellness, a publicly traded company listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange. Today, the dispensaries that Ayr acquired in the deal with Sira continue to operate under that brand name (at least for now), while the new dispensaries in Watertown and Back Bay operate under the Ayr name.
Ayr has invested heavily in acquisitions as it entered the Massachusetts market. In addition to their purchase of Sira — a deal which reportedly cost the company over $76 million — Ayr also purchased local cannabis beverage company LEVIA in 2021 in a deal worth upwards of $60 million. Ayr currently operates in eight states and has 11 brands in its portfolio, including LIT and LEVIA.
As the tour moved from Watertown to the cultivation facilities in Milford, I couldn’t help but notice how much of the industrial park has been taken over by Ayr’s buildings. In addition to the original building where the company was launched, they have since built two additional facilities focused solely on cultivation. The combined footprint of the three facilities makes the nearby Amazon warehouse look small in comparison.
The first stop of the tour was the first of the two new buildings. Dubbed “M2,” it was completed in March 2020. This facility is where the current batch of LIT products were grown.
The grow rooms in M2 resembled many that I have been in over the years. The bright lights, combined with the shiny white walls and employees wearing protective equipment, give the place a feel like that of the television room from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The plants sit on long tables that are just a few feet off the ground, bobbing in the breeze created by an array of fans placed on the ceiling. With so many grow tables in the room, all that remains is a narrow pathway around the perimeter of the room; the tables can be moved to either side with a gentle push, allowing the plants in the middle of the tables to be tended to.
Down the street at Ayr’s newest cultivation building (“M3”), you quickly realize how much the tactics used to grow cannabis at scale have evolved in just the past few years. Gone are the sliding tables, in their place are vertically stacked racks that allow twice the amount of plants to be grown in the same amount of square footage. The latest LED technology provides the plants with lights, replacing traditional high pressure sodium lighting. Like the tables in the other facility, the massive vertical racks can be moved back and forth with the gentle turning of a wheel. When this facility comes on line in a few months, it will vastly increase the amount of cannabis that Ayr can produce.
Even with the latest grow technology, as LIT hits shelves in Massachusetts, it faces an uphill battle to connect with consumers. Other West Coast brands like Cookies and Lowell Farms have already been operating in the state for some time, and with prices for cannabis flower in the state in a rapid decline, brands that present themselves as a premium product are going to have to go the extra mile to convince consumers that they are worth the price tag — particularly with a potential recession looming.
Large cannabis companies are also going to figure out how many flower brands are too many. Ayr, for example, has three flower brands, and continues to also sell flower products under the Sira brand name. At a certain point, you can’t blame the average consumer for getting confused by what is supposed to differentiate these products, all of which are grown in the same facility. When you consider that each brand also has a dozen or more strains being sold under its name, things can get even more confusing.
That being said, from a consumer’s perspective, more competition is almost never a bad thing. Initial reviews from consumers at the post-tour gathering at the Summit Lounge suggest that LIT is at least as good as existing premium flower brands on the Massachusetts market, with the Sour Cream strain being a particular fan favorite.
As LIT and other well-funded brands go national, quality and consistency will be the main factor in their success. Brands that succeed run the chance of being the Coca-Cola or Pepsi of the cannabis industry, but for every success story, there will be dozens of brands that falter along the way.