Angela Brown doesn’t hold back when singing weed’s praises. “It saved my life,” she says without hesitation. She’s come a long way from the little Woburn, Massachusetts girl who grew up associating weed with slackers. With Coast Cannabis Co., Brown is focused on cannabis as a wellness tool. Since launching their “active blend” raspberry lime gummies containing THCV — the compound touted for its energizing, appetite-suppressing effects, the Massachusetts-based brand has been expanding the way we see edibles.
“I was working out three to five times a week, using cannabis to give me that energy and motivation,” says co-founder and CEO Angela Brown, whose initial experience with the cannabinoid was through the THCV- rich strain Durban Poison. “I was putting in work and I ended up losing like forty pounds fairly quickly. When I’d run into people I hadn’t seen in a long time, they’d say, ‘Holy crap, you lost a lot of weight, what are you doing?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, I started smoking weed,’” she recalls with a laugh.
Each Coast raspberry lime gummy contains 5 mg each of CBD, THC, and THCV. Their carefully crafted product line also features three THC gummies, as well as three gummy options containing CBD, CBG, or CBN–all made with organic ingredients and cannabis from organically-grown plants.
Additionally, Coast offers a line of strain specific vaporizer cartridges, and chocolate bars in white, milk, and dark varieties made with ethically-sourced fair trade chocolate. Brown says the Coast consumer is active, health-conscious, and wants to make ethical choices with their dollar. “We wanted to create a product that, if it didn’t have cannabis in it, it could sell on the shelves of Whole Foods or a boutique candy store.”
Co-founded by Brown and her husband Brian Cusick, Coast launched in three Massachusetts retail locations in 2020, just two years after the state’s first recreational dispensaries opened their doors. Today Coast products are sold in more than 150 Massachusetts dispensaries, and they’re looking to expand to other East Coast states.
“We’re having such a great time truly making products that we want,” says Brown. “I think that’s what sets us apart in the cannabis space — we’ve always led with this idea of, ‘Hey, I’m a consumer, what do I want?’ I’m not in a boardroom looking at a spreadsheet and saying, ‘What’s the cheapest item to make?’”
Brown and Cusick met while attending Fitchburg State University and connected over their shared entrepreneurial aspirations. Cusick’s family members own plumbing and electrical companies, while Brown’s business goals were a bit more self-stimulated. “From a very young age, I wanted to have a different outcome than what I was witnessing around me. I was very motivated to find a way to be independent,” says Brown. “I always had this entrepreneurial spirit — I did the lemonade stand stands, and I love doing fundraising. I was very aggressive fundraiser working outside of the pizza places—you were not getting away without giving ten-year-old Ang your change!” Never in a million years would Brown have guessed she’d make a business out of cannabis.
Growing up in low-income housing, Brown was no stranger to weed. “Cannabis was around me every single day,” she says. But she took the anti-drug messaging of her school’s D.A.R.E. program to heart and had a low opinion of marijuana.
“My older sister smoked weed my whole life, and I kind of judged her for it,” she admits. “Of course she gives me shit now, like, ‘Who would’ve thought!’”
Brown’s perspective on cannabis started to shift in her twenties, after she began suffering from sleep and digestion issues and wasn’t seeing results from her doctor-prescribed drugs.
“I had hit my rock bottom with the pharmaceuticals. Their only response was to increase the dosage. I was fed up,” she says. Cusick had previously urged her to try cannabis to treat her health issues, but Brown isn’t the type to be easily convinced. She slowly warmed to the idea after the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative was passed in 2012.
“It was always easy for me to pass up a joint. I didn’t really like smoke and fire,” explains Brown. But in 2013, she tried concentrates for the first time with Cusick. “We were at Dave Matthews concert! Very stereotypical. Don’t include that, it’ll take away all my street cred,” she jokes. “I was like, okay, there’s no smoke, the smell wasn’t bad. It seemed a lot cleaner. It was amazing. I just instantly felt so much better.”
In addition to taking to heart D.A.R.E’s anti-weed message as a kid, Brown just hadn’t seen the women she looked up to enjoying cannabis. “I didn’t have any older female mentors in my career saying, ‘When I go home, and I’m stressed, I smoke weed.’ No, they all drank wine. So, that’s what I started doing. Like, ‘Look, I drink wine, I’m a business lady.’” But her life’s course changed at that concert. “I did not believe it was going to do anything but make me high for the night. But I couldn’t believe how great I felt. I had great digestion from it, I was sleeping, I was waking up energized. It became part of my daily routine. I threw all my medicines out and I started consuming daily.”
Coast was conceived organically — the direct result of Brown wanting products she couldn’t find. “Although the medical market had just opened here, the stuff that they were serving was terrible,” recalls Brown. “If cannabis is a wellness product, then why am I going to consume all of these artificial ingredients? Why am I going to consume twenty grams of sugar in one piece of chocolate? I started educating myself on how edibles were made – the conversion and all of that, and I started just making my own. I’ve never been shy in the kitchen.”
Soon Brown was making her own products at home, using organic ingredients from her fridge. “We started putting more time and energy into it. We would spend all this time after work and on weekends perfecting these peanut butter cups and cookies that we were making,” she says. She began sharing her experiments with friends and family, who were impressed. “As people tried them, they were telling us they were so much better than what they’d seen on the medical market here or in other states. It was really fun to see that there was a desire for these products, beyond just us. That’s when a light bulb went off for both Brian and me,” says Brown.
In 2017, Brown, who was working as a business development executive, and Cusick, who was a commercial project manager, quit their jobs to focus on establishing Coast, and ran through their savings in the process. In 2019, they began hiring additional staff. Along the way, they’ve relied on friends and family to help identify the flavors and ingredients that will resonate with consumers. “It’s the classic entrepreneur spirit,” says Brown. In October 2020, construction was completed on Coast’s 8,000-square-foot Wareham, Massachusetts facility. “I saw something, I didn’t like it, and I felt I could create a system to do it better. And that’s what we set out to do.”
Launching in stores during an enduring pandemic hasn’t been without its challenges. “Right now we’re moving to a new packaging vendor because our packaging went up fifty cents per unit,” says Brown. Their simple and elegant packaging features waves of color in shades of blues and orange evoking both the sun and ocean. “When you’re a cannabis company, you can’t just go to Staples and buy some holdover packaging. We’re trying to keep it cost-effective so we don’t have to raise our prices. It’s very rough to stay competitive with the bigger brands,” she points out.
Still, Brown says their company philosophy is simple. “If we use the best quality ingredients, we don’t cut corners, and we truly put out products that we want to, and do, consume daily — we know the customers are going to be there for us.”