Nowadays is a nationally available, nonalcoholic, cannabis-infused spirit that ships directly to consumers. Available in Low Dose (6 mg THC per 1.5-oz. serving) and Micro Dose (2 mg), Nowadays is meant to deliver a light, buzzy experience. The lemony beverage comes in a 750-ml bottle designed to fit in at any retail store, in a future with federal legalization.
But the brand is not in retail yet, even at cannabis dispensaries. Instead, founders Anthony Puterman and Justin Tidwell have discovered a legal route for cannabis beverage DTC. Nowadays launched in April and ships to certain states.
With retail sales still in the plans, this product is at the center of several key cannabis trends that affect this still-emerging market. We recently caught up with the Nowadays co-founders to chat about the brand and cannabis beverages in general.
Cannabis Regulator: What’s the demographic for THC beverages?
Justin Tidwell: It’s still such a new thing that you can’t really pinpoint this product for X demo. We have customers who just turned 21 and don’t want to drink alcohol but want to have a good time. We have a customer who is a 70-year-old woman who wants help sleeping and wants it from something that tastes good and is fast acting. The demo is wide ranging. That’s why we made this brand look and feel more like an alcohol product made for the mass market.
CR: What’s the biggest challenge making a cannabis beverage for the mass market?
Anthony Puterman: Can you make a cannabis beverage taste good is the number-one thing. If you can’t do that then you can’t succeed. We worked with a food scientist who previously worked for Starbucks. We spent a year working on ways to mask the cannabis taste.
JT: A cannabis beverage is a really bad-tasting raw product, very bitter. We did a lot of tweaking with natural flavors and eventually we got there. No matter how good your marketing is, if something tastes bad, consumers are not going to come back.
AP: And we achieved the taste while still being low sugar. It’s easy to mask the cannabis flavor with as lot of sugar, but ours is low sugar.
The number-two thing in creating a cannabis beverage is does the product make you feel good? Do the effects hit 80% of consumers within 15 minutes?
CR: Why go the DTC route?
JT: Consumers going into dispensaries don’t want to buy cannabis beverages. Most of the time, they’re going in to get the cheapest products at the lowest prices. Whereas we built this brand for the mass-market consumer, who expects great flavors and tasting profiles. These consumers expect more and are willing to pay more.
AP: We wanted to build a brand that could stand out at Whole Foods or Ralphs.
JT: We realized we had to get creative with DTC. We had more than 1,000 DTC orders in our first week. We want to be able to show our success in DTC to grocery stores and large-market retailers to prove that there’s consumer demand for these kind of products.
CR: How are you legally shipping THC-infused beverages?
JT: The  Federal Farm Bill legally defines anything with less than 0.3% THC as hemp. And you can take the THC model and, through emulsification in licensed channels, drive down the THC to less than 0.3%. You take that, put it in a beverage, classify it as hemp, and then you can ship it.
AP: We were about to launch at retail in the California market when we discovered this shipping opportunity. So we pivoted.
CR: Why a cannabis beverage?
JT: It’s natural human behavior. We drink caffeine to bring us up and we drink alcohol to relax. We’re used to drinking things that intoxicate us. So it’s a natural way to get high, to get a buzz.
People my parents’ generation, you put a joint or an edible in front of them, and they want no part of it. But if you put a cocktail in front of them, and tell them the drink contains cannabis, they think it’s the coolest thing ever.
AP: A lot of people want to try cannabis, but they don’t know where to start. Cannabis beverages is an easy place to start.
CR: And our usual final question: When can we expect federal legalization?
JT: It’s always the number-one question in this industry. Anyone who thinks they know the answer for sure is kidding themselves. That’s why we’re trying to build a brand that can also be successful today, servicing nearly 70% of the country.
Though I definitely think we’re within the ten-year mark of federal legalization. I think people’s lives can be impacted positively by consuming less alcohol and more cannabis.
This interview was condensed and edited for publication.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Cannabis Regulator. Reach him at email@example.com. Read his recent piece, Interview: Franchising in the Cannabis Business.