Jan. 28, 2011 -- Canna Cola is the new spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.
The beverage combines soda and THC, a psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana, to create a drink that co-brand-developer Clay Butler calls "medibles," edible medicine.
"A lot of people simply don't want to smoke," says co-brand developer Clay Butler. "It's very easy to take your medication in the form of a cookie, soda or brownie and you can do that without drawing attention to yourself."
Why soda pot? "Some people prefer medibles because it's better on the body than smoking or prescription drugs," says Butler. The use of marijuana-infused cola "allows them to stay away from the prescription pain killers."
The marijuana soda comes in "12 Mind Blowing Ounces" and is expected to cost $10 to $12 but will vary based on the price of supply at dispensaries.
The drink will feature five flavors: Canna Cola, the Dr. Pepper styled Doc Weed, Orange Kush, Grape Ape and Sour Diesel. The company decided to pick classic soda types shunning atypical drinks like Lychee flavors because they provided a full spectrum of flavors.
"It had to do with understanding people were going to expect to have the classic flavors to begin with," says Butler, who also envision a root beer or punch-flavored version of the drink.
But, if you're wondering how the new drink tastes don't ask Butler. "I've never tried marijuana and I don't drink soda," Butler says.
In order to create the beverage testing had to be done with a very controlled group because one ingredient is not exactly legal for all.
"You don't just get a group together and say 'hey let's try this,'" says Butler. "This can only be manufactured, used, depending on which state you live in. You can't just round people up on the street and do testing," he says. "The formulas are tested on people already trying medibles or people with medical marijuana cards" based on the law.
Medical marijuana users in Colorado will get the first chance to try the drink. The company expects to begin selling the product in there in February before expanding to the huge California market.
And, the product with nationwide ambition may have an uphill battle in store if Sen. Dianne Feinstein's "Brownie Law" is enacted.
"New techniques and gimmicks to lure our kids into addiction are around every corner," Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote in a statement about the Savings Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act. "We must do everything we can to end the practice of purposely altering illegal drugs to make them more appealing to our youth."
From a public safety perspective, Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML Foundation can understand Feinstein's concern.
"The only real concern regarding cannabis infused products is those that look like they can be marketed towards children or that children cannot recognize that it's a drug. The responsible manufacturer and marketers need to make the packaging clearly marked and hard to enter," St. Pierre says.
The brownie bill has many medical marijuana supporters worried. "Canna Cola and all medible manufacturers are concerned by this bill," Butler told ABC. "Hopefully it will die in the House of Representatives. This bill is a solution looking for a problem that doesn't exist. Minors can't buy medical marijuana products except in specific situations that involve parent and doctor approval at which point they can take medical marijuana," Butler says.
St. Pierre contends that medibles shouldn't be banned but child-protective measures are necessary. "If marijuana is a medicine, as we certainly believe it is, it needs to be packaged [properly] and use child proof safety like current drugs," says St. Pierre.
Butler calls the bill very subjective and says it has no connection to keeping children away from the drug.
"Kids already have easy unsupervised, unregulated access to marijuana," wrote Butler in a statement to ABC. "Kids who want to get high get their pot on the street from other kids, not from dispensaries, which require a doctor's prescription and the approval of their parent and operate responsibly under strict government laws. This bill is a cynical ploy to attack the medical marijuana laws approved by voters by creating a straw man argument about protecting children," wrote Butler.
"If marijuana is a medicine, as we certainly believe it is, it needs to be packaged [properly] and use child proof safety like current drugs," says St. Pierre.
Before Canna Cola is compared to the controversial drink Four Loko, the beverage that mixed caffeine and alcohol, coming under heavy scrutiny by the government leading to numerous bans, Butler says they're nothing alike.
"The products that are being pulled off the shelves have nothing to do with medicine. Canna Cola is medicine," Butler says. "You don't take [Canna Cola] unless you have specific medicinal reasons.
"Medical marijuana users are very sophisticated. They're not like the people buying aspirin off the shelves, they know their body," Butler says."
The pot Cola will not be distributed by Butler. Due to legal issues the drink will be produced by medical marijuana dispensaries or people certified under local and state laws.
"It's medicine, it's not a party drink," Butler says. "If that's what you want to do, then you should go pick something else."