18 Oct 2015

Cannabis drink company 'trying to be risqué'

8:06 pm on 18 October 2015

A New Zealand drug support agency says naming an energy drink Cannabis is irresponsible and trivialises drug use.

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Photo: Facebook

The product is being imported from a Queensland supplier and has been sold in dairies and convenience stores in the South Island for a few weeks.

The company behind it, B100 Drinks, said it was completely legal.

"For Australia and New Zealand the product does not have hemp seed extract in it. It is not allowed in either country, so for the products here it is hemp free."

It does not contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects, the company said.

But concern has been raised over the drink's name.

Australian media have reported parents are outraged over the energy drink.

Drug service Drug-ARM Christchurch manager Geoff Howard said it was an overreaction to think the drink would make people go out and buy drugs, but he said the name was unnecessary.

"It's at least a bit irresponsible in terms of marketing and I think when you look at the broad customer base of those energy drinks you've potentially got younger kids buying them," Mr Howard said,

"I don't think it's necessarily a useful thing to further trivialise and normalise the concept of drug use."

Drug foundation executive Ross Bell said the company was trying to be risqué, which was nothing new.

"We've seen these types of things where companies think they're being very clever and put cannabis leaves and things on their cans and I think it's a bizarre attempt to try and make their products appeal to young people.

"I think the people doing this really do need to take a good look at themselves. I think fundamentally they've broken rule number one which is don't be a dick."

He said with half of all New Zealanders having tried cannabis, it would not change people's attitudes.

"I don't think these products and the imagery is going to drive a whole lot of young New Zealanders to look to their local tinnie house and to suddenly want to go smoke a whole lot of weed but I think these do test the limits of community decency."

He said while there were rules around linking products to illicit drugs, the drink was testing the advertising industry's regulations.

"I think what this demonstrates is that actually companies can quite freely test those rules and push those boundaries and I think that that needs to be looked at."

He said organisations such as the Advertising Standards Authority could be a bit more proactive when such products were put on the market.

The Advertising Standards Authority said it has no jurisdiction over product names and it could only act if it received a complaint about Cannabis being used in an advertisement.

B100 Drinks has been warned about advertising dangers in Australia in an investigation by Queensland Health.

Prompted by multiple complaints about the drink, the investigation proved it contained no cannabis but did have a warning for the company.

"The company was advised to cease selling the product in Queensland as this State's Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 prevents a person from referring to cannabis in an advertisement."

A spokesperson for the Ministry for Primary Industries said it was considering the advice from Queensland Health.

"We will use this to inform what action we may take regarding this product in New Zealand."

A spokesperson from B100 Drinks described any public outcry over the drink's name as "sensationalism" and stressed the drink was "completely legal and very popular all over the world".

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