Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Concerns raised about energy drink that's on sale in dairies with blatant cannabis branding

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Tessa Olsson, 15, has concerns that the Cannabis Energy Drink is being marketed towards young people. Photo/Andrew Warner
Tessa Olsson, 15, has concerns that the Cannabis Energy Drink is being marketed towards young people. Photo/Andrew Warner

There are concerns an energy drink named after an illegal drug and sold at Tauranga dairies for less than $3 could appeal to children.

Cannabis Energy Drink, with a cannabis leaf logo, was found for sale for between $2 and $3 at three dairies the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend visited this week.

The drink, which does not contain any illegal ingredients, has been on sale in New Zealand for more than 12 months but one dairy owner in Mount Maunganui said he had only stocked it since Tuesday.

Concerns are now being raised by some local people who worry about the effect it will have on impressionable young people - and Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said constituents had approached him.

''I was pretty shocked when I saw it. I was pretty concerned,'' he said.

Cannabis Energy Drink New Zealand, the drink's distributor in New Zealand, said in a written statement the product had been in New Zealand for more than 12 months and "we are surprised by your comments when many other products of this type have also illicit names".

The international company behind the drink, B100 Drinks, said in a statement Cannabis was cleared by all relevant Government agencies and the can clearly stated it was not recommended for children, pregnant or lactating women or caffeine-sensitive people.

"Yes, we market to young people aged between 18-35, we don't go to skate parks and hand out free samples to children.''

When asked why the drink was named Cannabis, the company said: "There is (sic) no Red Bulls in RedBull, no Rock Stars in Rockstar, no Mothers in Mother etc. There is no THC free Hemp oil in the product, NZ is one of only two countries in the world that I'm aware of that does not allow Hemp for human consumption."

A display of the drinks on a shop counter.
A display of the drinks on a shop counter.

Emma Campbell, who posted a photo of the drinks online, said she was quite shocked to see the branding.

"As if we need any more energy drinks for our children to get their hands on, they have to make one called Cannabis. And have the leaf logo, it just puts a bad vibe out there. I'm really surprised it got past the manufacturing process."

Tessa Olsson, 15, said naming a drink Cannabis was, in her opinion, making the drug more mainstream among youth.

"It's making cannabis trendy, even though there's no cannabis in there, they are using cannabis to market their drink.

Tessa felt people in her age group would be less susceptible to the marketing ploy, but believed children of intermediate school age would be more vulnerable.

Her mother, Charlotte Olsson, said her children did not like the taste of energy drinks, but teenagers in general enjoyed them and in her view the Cannabis brand would appeal to their sense of humour.

Papamoa childcare worker Jenny Garnett was shocked to see Cannabis cans displayed on a dairy shop counter.

"It's trying to encourage kids to drink fizzy, the kids will buy it just because it is cool to them.

"It's just wrong."

Jacqui Mahu, a grandmother of young children, said it was not appropriate for these drinks to be available to impressionable children.

"It should have an age limit on it, or maybe only let it be sold in liquor stores.

Two college students, whom the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend did not name because of their ages, said they thought the name of the drink was "stupid".

In their view, it could appeal to young people who would think it was cool to drink something called Cannabis.

Mr Muller said in his opinion ''it just sends the wrong message. It glamourises the use of cannabis, trying to make something cool that isn't cool".

A police spokesman said police put a great deal of effort into providing education about alcohol and drugs to young people.

Toi Te Ora - Public Health Service declined to comment.

- Bay of Plenty Times

What is in Cannabis Energy Drink?

• Not cannabis. Overseas, the drink contains hemp seed oil extract, but hemp seed oil cannot be consumed in New Zealand. • The drink contains taurine, caffeine, glucuronolactone and inositol, as well as sucrose and glucose, the two largest components of the drink after carbonated water.

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