Grandmother is winning over customers with pot-infused soda

A lot of TLC.

And a little THC.

That’s how Cecilia Sivertson, 56, went from being “Nana” to being “The Nana.”

When she’s not doting on her grandkids, she’s selling soda pop to pot shops.

Her company, Nana’s Secret, makes 11 flavors of cannabis-infused bottled sodas.

“Nostalgic sodas,” she said. “Blue Cream. Orange Cream. Honey Cream. Yummyness.”

CEO Nana is vying to be the Coca-Cola of the soda pot world.

“It’s a really good business. I don’t have to sell. I just go into the shops and say, ‘I’m Nana. Good to see you. How many flavors do you want?’ ” she said.

A “Nana” charm from her granddaughter dangles from a necklace and a marijuana leaf lights up her iPhone background. A “Women in Weed” button juts from her scarf.

The sodas sell for $10 to $12 a pop in about 60 medical marijuana dispensaries. Now she’s going after the recreational market. She’s in the process of trying to open her own bottling plant.

Reefer madness isn’t what the Alabama native pictured her future would hold, but it’s paying the bills and easing her epileptic seizures.

“I was a paralegal in the King County prosecutor’s office for nine years,” she said, her voice laced with a Southern twang. “My husband was killed in 2001. My job became depressing and I was already depressed. I quit that job and bought a partnership into a label-making business.”

Some days she could barely get out of bed to go to work from the side effects of epilepsy drugs. “The medicine I was taking was making me feel really bad. I had tremors in my hands and arms when I got up. The nausea was really bad,” she said.

She took a friend’s suggestion to try medical marijuana at a nearby dispensary. The cannabis edibles made her feel better, but she noticed the packaging needed some help.

“The brownies had crappy labels. I bought one because I wanted to sell them a label,” she said. “It tasted horrible. I said, ‘I’m not selling them labels. I’m making my own brownies.’ I took them to the dispensaries and they sold like hotcakes because they were really yummy and they were really potent.”

Her company, Evergreen Label &Printing in Lynnwood, made thousands of labels for a Seattle soda bottler, and it was during a big press run that her “ah-ha” moment came. “It just clicked. This could be so much faster, so much easier and so much more profitable than baking brownies. Let’s do soda,” she said.

“So I went to my customer and told him I wanted to put cannabis in soda. He said, ‘What? You’re crazy!’ I met with some friends who own a dispensary that produced cannabis infused oils for medical patients. They worked out the formula to mix the oil with another substance to make it water soluble. That’s how it got started and it has just been craziness ever since.”

Will Primo, 23, is her right-hand man. They met at the Dope Magazine trade show in Seattle. The 6-foot-8 Lake Stevens man, who uses cannabis for chronic pain from a car crash, does social media, marketing and drives Nana around Washington selling cases of pop.

“You can’t hardly call it work,” Primo said. “I did a lot of sales before. Most of my jobs before were either dead-end retail jobs or selling cars. With this, I have found my purpose.”

Ben Reagan sells Nana’s Secret soda at the Center for Palliative Care, which specializes in cannabinoid treatments, in Seattle.

“People seem to like them,” Reagan said. “There isn’t a medicinal taste or heavy cannabis taste. The orange cream tastes like orange cream.”

Recreational marijuana use falls under the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which has no jurisdiction over medical marijuana. Edible products sold at retail outlets must meet state board standards. About 200 chocolate, pastry and drink products have been approved so far.

“There are warnings on the recreational products and indicators that they contain marijuana. They can’t be especially appealing to children,” said liquor board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter. “They must have serving sizes. A serving is 10 milligrams of THC.”

Sivertson hopes to get approval to sell a recreational version of Nana’s Secret with a total 20 milligrams of THC in a two-serving bottle. There are about 39 milligrams of THC per bottle of Nana’s medical pop and a “high potency” warning on the label.

She drinks one or two bottles a day.

“The first thing I do when I get up is medicate,” she said. “I used to take five pills a day. Now I take one.”

Medical use is different than recreational, she said.

“In medical, people who go into dispensaries are medical patients and they know how to dose themselves because they have been doing this for a while,” she said. “It’s called medicating. It’s not a bunch of stoners sitting around getting high.”

Still, what do her grandkids think?

“My granddaughter is 8,” she said. “She knows what I do. She knows I have epilepsy. She knows I use the cannabis for medicine and that I make it for other people who need it for medicine. She understands all that. My husband would have been very proud.”

For more information about Nana’s Secret, email info@nanassecret.com or go to www.nanassecret.com.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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