Marijuana Soft Drinks: The Next Big Buzz?


Photo: The Pitch
I’ll have one of each, please.

​While cannabis-infused soft drinks have been around for awhile, a new brand, Canna Cola, seems to have hit a marketing sweet spot, because its February debut in Colorado is getting a ton of media buzz.

Canna Cola is positioning itself as the “light beer” of marijuana drinks, since it has a lower THC content (35 to 65 mg) than other brands currently on the market, according to Scott Riddell of marketers Diavolo Brands, reports Wallace Baine of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
“It’s got a mild marijuana taste,” Riddell told the Sentinel. “But the taste factor is really negligible compared to some competitors with three times the THC. When you get to that level, you really have a heavy aftertaste.”

Interesting marketing angle, I suppose — taste over potency — but how is that going to go over with the medical marijuana community? For my money, I want the most potent cannabis drink available, and I happen to love the taste of marijuana.

Photo: Bill Lovejoy/Santa Cruz Sentinel
Clay Butler, the commercial artist behind Canna Cola, claims he’s never used marijuana.

​It’s not as surprising, though, once you learn that Clay Butler, the commercial artist who conceived the brand, doesn’t use cannabis at all. Well, at least that’s what he says.
“I don’t do drugs,” Butler said. “Never have. I never drank, never smoked. I’m a clean-living guy. I’ve had two beers in my whole life, and I remember them both, too. No marijuana, I’ve never smoked a cigarette. I take an aspirin when I get a headache. That’s it.”
But see, that’s the thing. I kind of want a medical marijuana patient — one who’s gone through the pain and nausea that I’ve known, and thus who knows the need for a potent cannabis drink — to be the one designing and decanting my pot soda (or is that soda pot)?
Not to mention the fact that Butler somehow considers taking aspirin — which causes more than 7,000 deaths a year — as “clean living” when cannabis has never caused a single death. What’s so “clean” about that?
On the positive side, Butler at least said he is a “firm believer that adults have an inalienable right to think, eat, smoke, drink, ingest, decorate, dress any way they choose to do so. It’s your life; it’s your body.”
But another questionable marketing tactic being employed by Canna Cola is to market “against type,” or at least against the hippie type of marketing it perceives in other cannabis products.
“You look at all the marijuana products out there, and they are so mom-and-pop, hippie-dippy and rinky-dink,” Butler said. “If someone can put every color on the rainbow on it, they do. If they can pick the most inappropriate and unreadable fonts, they will. And there’s marijuana leaves on everything. It’s a horrible cliché in the industry.”
Not that he got rid of the leaf, mind you. In his quest to market a THC-lased drinkable “how Snapple or Coca-Cola or Minute Maid would make a marijuana beverage, if they ever chose to do it,” he went ahead and used the marijuana leaf, saying it’s an unavoidable part of the “brand DNA” of marijuana products. But you see, his leaf is different — it’s made out of bubbles, to suggest soda pop.
Riddell is concerned about one bill in Congress, the so-called Brownie Law, SB 258, which would double the penalties for anyone producing a product that combines marijuana with “a candy product” or markets it to minors. The bill, sponsored by California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein, passed the Senate last summer and is currently in the House, and it poses a threat to all “medibles,” food and drink products containing THC.
In any event, Canna Cola hopes to have its product available in medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado in February, and later this spring in California, reports Jonathan Bender at The Pitch. A 12-ounce bottle — “12 mind-blowing ounces,” as the bottle puts it — is expected to retail for between $10 and $15. Yes, that’s per bottle, not per six pack.