Shot size bottle. Fantasy label. Light yellow liquid. It looks like single-dose bottles of rum or vodka are near the cashier at your local liquor store.
But do not let the packaging fool you. Rhythm is not your typical drink.
Health Canada says it is a controlled substance and its sale is illegal.
"Pace is an illegal and unauthorized product in Canada," the federal department said in a statement to CBC News.
"Health Canada is taking appropriate follow-up measures to prevent the sale of this product in Canada."
But the manufacturer, Diet Alcohol Corporation of the Americas, describes Pace as legal on its website. He describes the drink as a "new alcohol alternative" that packs a drink-like buzz – with zero alcohol, calories, or hangover.
The company describes the active ingredient of Pace, MEAI, as a "new synthetic" that provides "a slight inebriation along with a feeling of contentment that inhibits excessive consumption and excessive consumption."
He also says on his website that the product is "absolutely" legal.
According to Ezekiel Golan, Pace's chief scientist, "tens of thousands" of bottles have already been sold online and shipped to Canadians.
"It's very popular," said Golan, who is also known by the nickname Dr. Z. "We will not have enough stock to supply the Christmas race, it seems," he said.
But the legality of the drink, the unpredictable effects and unknown health impacts in the long run can cause consumers to lose a buzz.
Golan – a Vancouverite who claims to have worked for the world's largest pharmaceutical companies and have a PhD in mathematics – said he invented MEAI in 2008.
It is one of the many chemicals he said he had synthesized and experimented with in himself over a controversial 15-year career in the obscure world of cutting-edge psychoactive drugs. Some people call him "Godfather of Legal Heights."
His method – which he calls neo-simplulgationism after Alexander Shulgin, the American biochemist known as self-testing and psychoactive drug research – is unconventional.
"When I was studying heroin, I went to live with a bunch of addicts," Golan said. "I went as far as I could into their lifestyle. I tried to get addicted. [to heroin] because I do not think there is any way to understand this kind of addiction without actually being there. "
Mephedrone, for example – a fast, amphetamine-like drug that Golan co-invented and helped popularize – was banned in the UK in 2010 after being involved in about 38 deaths.
Unlike mephedrone, Golan said, the MEAI "never killed anyone".
It's also "brand-new," he said. "The people who work for the company, they all use it.
"The product … are 50 ml bottles of an active powder called MEAI in certified mineral water. That's it."
The full name for MEAI is 5-methoxy-2-aminoindan. DACOA, a new company, owns the intellectual property of MEAI.
It is manufactured in India under a GMP license, or "good manufacturing practice," then bottled in Delaware and shipped to consumers.
Schedule substance I
Pace states on its website that MEAI is not "regulated nor programmed in the US or Canada."
But a statement to CBC News, Health Canada stated that "it is aware of MEAI and that it is considered a Controlled Substance (Annex I)" – close enough to amphetamines to be covered by the analog programming provision. That means speed and MEAI have similar chemical structures and no one can have it in their possession.
But neither the RCMP nor the Canadian Border Services Agency appear to have the authority to prevent Pace being shipped to Canada or penalize people for possessing it.
"The requirements for importing a particular substance into Canada are the responsibility of Health Canada," the agency said in an emailed statement.
Perhaps incorporating it into your life is debilitating in a way that we have not yet discovered. There may be some kind of long-term damage.– Ezekiel Golan, inventor of MEAI
"We did some investigations and confirmed that this would be implemented by Health Canada," Cpl said. Jullie Rogers-Marsh of the New Brunswick RCMP.
Golan also contests that Health Canada may prevent the company from selling its product to Canadian consumers.
"We read the drug laws," he said. "This does not appear anywhere in Canada's drug laws. Pharma always anticipates legislation."
"Why take the risk?"
Leaving aside the legality, Golan recognizes the risks of consuming it.
"Perhaps incorporating it into your life is debilitating in a way that we have not yet discovered," he said. "Maybe there's some kind of long-term damage."
But for people suffering from a debilitating alcohol addiction, Golan said, MEAI can offer an alternative – and help them control their consumption.
"Some people have such an acute problem with alcohol that they want a solution now," he said.
That said, Golan said, "We do not want them to try it if they're on the wall."
"Why take the risk?"