How It Started: The Future of Drinking with Matthew Cohen, CEO & Co-Founder of Lively Spirits

This interview originally appeared on

As part of our “How It Started” interview series, we had the pleasure of chatting with Matthew Cohen, CEO and Co-Founder of Lively Spirits, a psychotropic spirits company leveraging nature’s bounty of plants to craft euphoric beverages. Lively Spirits recently launched purejuana, a dry spirit made from live cannabis. 
Thanks for joining us! What was it about cannabis that first piqued your interest, and when did that happen? 

The first time I consumed cannabis in high school, something clicked and I just felt more myself. I have never really stopped consuming since then. In college, I was an activist and a grower, and ultimately dropped out to go head first into legal cannabis in California in 1998. 

How did your company come to life? What’s its origin story? 

My partner, Parker Steele, and I took over a company that we co-founded but did not lead. That company had some very unique technologies we were able to advance and adapt to our vision of creating strain-specific THC powders. These technologies allowed us to make cannabis water soluble and highly bioavailable.  

I always thought the Holy Grail of cannabis innovation would be the beverage format. We applied a unique emulsion process to supreme live cannabis concentrates, derived from only the best sun-grown cannabis grown with organic practices. We married that process with a technology that dries the emulsion into a powder without heat or any other process that would adulterate the pure expression of the cultivar. Cannabis is best with all of its volatile compounds intact. Heat, traditional drying of flowers, pressure, chemicals and other processes greatly degrade the plant’s expression, and subsequently the user experience. purejuana is a solution to that challenge.

What is it about your company that makes you stand out?

We have pioneered a new cannabis beverage category — dry spirits. Dry spirits like purejuana can power the cannabis cocktail occasion and bring life to an entire bar. We are able to transform a unique cannabis cultivar into a sessionable cocktail occasion that can compete with alcohol. Each cultivar powers a cocktail with its own unique aroma, taste and most of all, a unique effect. purejuana is a true alternative to alcohol cocktails, offering a varied and complex array of experiences.

What does your typical day look like and what do you enjoy most about your work? 

I spend a lot of time thinking about the future, refining my vision and strategic path. Get the kid off to school, make calls to my managers and colleagues, put out fires, improve processes, build community, share vision with our staff, check in on farms and retail partners. I love awesome products, talented people and seizing opportunities that I am passionate about.  

What has been the highlight of your cannabis career to date? 

This is it. I feel like purejuana is, in many ways, my life’s work. Runner up is facing the federal mandatory minimums in the earlier days and coming through mostly unscathed to watch prohibition crumble. 

Can you give us one cannabis trend that excites you? 

Of course the beverage category, but more specifically, super premium live products that truly express the plant.

Is there a product or service you hope someone creates to serve the cannabis community?

Institutional capital, better banks and more organized industry lobbying — whoever can provide those services.

What is the biggest change you want to see in the sector? 

The final end of prohibition and the freeing of all incarcerated people for cannabis, as well as the normalization of cannabis consumption for the masses. I want to see bars serving cannabis cocktails become as ubiquitous as alcohol bars.

Any advice you would give to someone looking to enter the cannabis industry? 

This is a very tough industry with strong headwinds. You better believe in what you want to do at your core. You must be willing to make sacrifices. I hope you have a stellar life partner like I do in my wife. If you do come in, do the right thing. Be a good actor. Respect the plant and the folks that risked everything to free it.

What’s next for you? What should we be on the lookout for? 

I hope to see cannabis lounges operating like bars that serve purejuana cocktails, creating a social consumption experience for the masses.