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Lever A-1: Pot-infused brownies

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Sunday, April 20, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

There's a test run of a new vending machine in Colorado, designed to dole out marijuana. As the story was headlined in the April 15 Washington Post: “Pot vending machines come to Colorado.”

On the same morning, ironically, an Associated Press report by science writer Malcolm Ritter and medical writer Lindsey Tanner summarized newly released conclusions of a research project at Northwestern University. The article's headline: “Study finds signs of brain changes in pot smokers.”

Studying the side effects of casual cannabis use, researchers found that young adults who used marijuana just once or twice a week showed substantial brain abnormalities. “Focusing on the nucleus accumbens (NAC) and the amygdala — two key brain regions responsible for processing emotions, making decisions, and motivation,” researchers measured the “density, volume and shape” of these brain structures, reported Loren Grush, Fox News health editor.

“For the NAC, all three measures were abnormal,” reported Dr. Hans Breiter, co-director of the study and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University. “The amygdala had abnormalities for shape and density” plus “volume changes” that were directly correlated with levels of usage.

But let's go back to some roots of all this, back to when Vietnam was exploding and hippies in Che T-shirts were selling “Eat the Rich” cookbooks on the National Mall and Jerry Garcia wasn't an ice cream.

“It is very easy, and in many circles, compulsory, to make fun of the Dead,” the Grateful Dead, wrote Nick Paumgarten in The New Yorker (“Deadhead: The Afterlife,” Nov. 26, 2012).

Paumgarten recounted a line about the Dead's nomadic fans, the Deadheads, drifting with the band from one city to the next in a pharmaceutically enhanced daze: “What does a Deadhead say when the drugs wear off? ‘This music sucks.'” These “phony vagabonds,” wrote Paumgarten, “dispensed bromides about peace and fellowship as they laid waste to parking lots and town squares. Many came by the stereotypes honestly: airheads and druggies, smelling of patchouli and pot, hairy, hypocritical, pious, ingenuous, and uncritical in the extreme.”

Garcia, the Dead's lead guitarist, provided the underlying principle: “Money's the problem. Drugs are just drugs.”

Nonetheless, it was drugs, not money, that silenced Garcia in the end at the too-young age of 53. His comatose body, wrecked by years of drug abuse, was found by a counselor during a 2 a.m. bed check at Serenity Knolls, a drug treatment facility in San Francisco.

In “Pot vending machines come to Colorado,” Washington Post reporter Abby Phillip quotes Greg Honan, owner of Herbal Elements in Eagle-Vail, Colorado.

“We're looking forward to using the machines to easily track all this inventory,” all this pot, Honan told Fox31 TV in Denver. “We're going to eliminate the middle man. It'll go straight from the budtender right into our machines. There's no room for theft by patients, employees ... no way to lose track of our inventory.”

Bottom line: We've got a brand-new delivery system that'll cut theft by patients and employees and efficiently deliver brain abnormalities with fewer inventory losses.

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (

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