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There's no pot in Mary Jane's Relaxing Soda, but the maker is riding on the drug's cachet to sell the beverage, one of several purportedly calming drinks made from plants long used as folk remedies.
In Los Angeles, where medical marijuana dispensaries outnumber Starbucks and McDonald's restaurants combined, a mood-altering beverage with a cannabis-oriented marketing campaign is gaining traction. Southern California has become the bestselling market for Mary Jane's Relaxing Soda, a sugary drink laced with kava, a South Pacific root purported to have sedative properties.
Matt Moody, a Denver nutritional supplement developer who created the beverage, said the name is an unabashed reference to weed, though the relaxant compounds in kava are chemically unrelated to those in marijuana. Along with drinks like Slow Cow and Ex Chill, Mary Jane's is part of a new group of so-called slow-down or anti-energy drinks, which are expected to be among the top food trends of 2010, according to advertising agency J. Walter Thompson.
The drinks purportedly promote calming, and they also take on the energy-drink category directly by claiming also to boost mental focus and concentration, said Ann Mack, director of trend-spotting at the ad agency. Said Travis Arnesen, spokesman for Ex Drinks of Henderson, Nev.: "It is a new category, kind of like energy drinks, but designed to relax people. Just recently it has been picking up steam."
The 7-Eleven stores stocking Mary Jane's sell the product at a rate of about 14 bottles a day, which is considered a healthy pace for a niche beverage, Moody said. It also sells in scattered bars and cafes and online through the Mary Jane's Soda website. Nathan Scholl, a waiter at a Santa Monica restaurant, said he was "hooked" on the cola-colored liquid, which comes packed in a clear 12-ounce bottle with a blue label.