[DISCLAIMER: This interview might not be appropriate for younger readers. Daily BR!NK does not endorse the consummation of drugs.]
A soda that actually gets you high? We didn’t think it existed either, but Clay Butler has proven us wrong. In a partnership with Diavolo Brands, the multi-talented California artist has been working to promote a drink called Canna Cola that has everybody talking. Before he was busy creating humorous, colorful graphic labels for the wide variety of flavors that Canna Cola comes in, Clay used his wit and artistic talent to write a political comic strip called Sidewalk Bubblegum. Here, he discusses the controversy surrounding his new product and the possible misconceptions. Regardless of whether or not Canna Cola will take over the soda industry, we cannot help but wonder what will be next for this highly talented entrepreneur. And in case you were wondering, no, we were not offered free samples.
How would you describe what it is that you do?
In the most general sense, I create something out of nothing. In the past I was creating and syndicating my political comic strip, Sidewalk Bubblegum, recording albums with my band, and producing and starring in my own television shows. I’ve had a line of nationally distributed t-shirts, shot some of my favorite bands as a concert photographer, dabbled in journalism and always seem to be falling into one socio-political cause or another.
Everything I’ve been involved with is an exercise in communication. This has naturally led to my career in branding. Branding is just communication. A bottle of olive oil, an energy bar, or a gourmet brownie can’t speak for itself. Branding is the act of giving inanimate objects and abstract concepts a voice. When done well, a brand feels alive, even though the object that the brand represents is just a thing or an idea.
How did the idea for this drink emerge? Who decided to turn it into a reality? And how did you get involved?
The idea originated with Diavolo Brands. They contacted me because I’m good at executing and also have a philosophical connection to the concept. We hit it off so well that we became partners in the venture.
What purpose does this drink serve?
The drink is in the medibles category. Medibles is a contraction of the phrase “medical edibles” that’s used in the medical marijuana community to describe marijuana-infused foods. Patients seek out medical marijuana for various reasons. Some are fighting cancer and chemotherapy leaves them too nauseous to eat. Some are wracked with muscle spasms that prevent them from working. Some are plagued by such chronic body aches that they can barely sleep. We are providing patients a refreshing and flavorful alternative to smoking. Smoking is an immediate and powerful delivery device for medical marijuana but also comes with all the harmful effects that come from smoking. If you’re in chemotherapy and fighting off cancer, the last thing you need is smoke in your lungs. Yet nothing is quite as good at stimulating the appetite and relieving the intense deep body aches that come from chemotherapy as marijuana. So eating or, in our case, drinking marijuana is a superior choice for these people.
Does it actually get you high? What does it taste like?
Yes, one could say Canna Cola can “get you high,” but that’s not a very useful description and only scratches the surface of the wide variety of therapeutic effects of responsible medical marijuana use. If you simply want to get blasted, it would be cheaper and more appropriate to pick something else. As for the taste, the non-medicated version tastes like really great soda. The medicated one will be different, of course.
What are some of the different flavors that it comes in?
We’re launching with the classics we are all familiar with. Our flagship flavor Canna Cola, Orange Kush (which is an orange cream), Grape Ape, Sour Diesel (which is a sparkling lemon lime), and Doc Weed (which captures that elusive cherry/vanilla cola flavor).
You mentioned to Daily BR!NK editors that you were currently battling the “selling drugs to kids” controversy. Can you tell us a little more about that?
There’s an idea that taking your medicine shouldn’t be an enjoyable experience. This is not only cruel but counterproductive to healing. Our packaging is designed to bring happiness to those who are suffering. We use bright colors and humorous, yet sophisticated, graphics and names intentionally. When a cancer patient picks up a bottle of Canna Cola to counteract the ravages of chemotherapy, it’s supposed to bring a smile to their faces. Why should they be required to take medicine that tastes bitter, unpleasant, and comes in a drab gray bottle?
Then there is the access issue. Children already have zero access to medical marijuana products. Most adults have zero access to medical marijuana products as well. You can’t even enter a dispensary to browse without a medical marijuana card. So children cannot get their marijuana from a dispensary. It’s simply impossible.
You can’t see it in the photos but we’re proud of the fact that we have one of the most aggressive warning labels in the industry. On the back is huge label in clear black white and red that states “WARNING: The product contains marijuana. For medical use only. Keep away from children. Not for sale to persons under 21 in dispensaries.” When it’s distributed, we will also be applying a very large removable black and white sticker on the front that clearly states that this is medical marijuana and that must be kept away from children.
What are some misconceptions that people might have about this drink?
Number one misconception is that somehow we cracked the code on marijuana prohibition. So no, we can’t send you a case. It’s against the law. You can’t order it online. Sure, we can sell you a nice empty, never-been-used bottle for your collection, but unless you have a medical marijuana card and live in a state that allows for it you will never taste it. I’ve never even tasted it and I’m the co-founder. Sure, I’ve tasted the non-medicated syrup to make sure we develop a great flavor, but I don’t have a medical marijuana card and I have no reason at this point in my life to get one.
The second misconception is how it will be distributed, We will never make the drink. It’s not possible. Canna Cola will be made locally in each state by certified medical marijuana manufactures, dispensaries, and co-ops. We provide the brand, but each bottler will source their own medical marijuana and produce the final product. And they will follow their state’s laws to the letter.
You previously mentioned that you created an online comic strip called Sidewalk Bubblegum. What is it about?
Sidewalk Bubblegum was launched in 1993 and retired in 2001. It’s not really an online comic strip as it predates the web as we know it. It ran in newspapers all over the country and a few places overseas. I’ve been featured in a lot of poly-sci textbooks as well. I initially honed my chops with the Monterey Herald and then the Seaside Sentinel and then the Coast Weekly where I was staff cartoonist for a while. My strip also ran in the Santa Cruz Metro and The Santa Cruz Sentinel.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
One of the best ways is to hire me, especially for product launches and branding. Secondly, you can check out my strip and share it. You can download a print quality PDF of the entire collection or a generic eBook version for free. If you want the Kindle version it will set you back a whole $1.99. I make a big seventy cents off each sale. I think I made enough last year to buy a movie ticket which is better than I expected since I made the entire collection available for free.
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