Do Melatonin Brownies Actually Do Anything? An Unfair Park Special Report.

"You're going to eat that now?" the guy at the head shop asked. He looked worried. "That's not a good idea. I don't take 'em in the daytime. It renders me non-functional."

Well, shit. It was Friday afternoon, and I was about to drug my co-workers.

A little background, though, before we get to the co-worker-drugging. Last week, the FDA warned HBB LLC, a Memphis company that makes a melatonin-laced brownie called "Lazy Larry," that the government may seize them from stores. Apparently Big Government is worried about those pesky "potential reproductive, cardiovascular, ocular and neurological side effects" that the FDA says medical research has linked to using melatonin as an ingredient in food.

"Relaxation" foods have been controversial for awhile. Chill-you-out drinks Purple Stuff and Drank both received similarly worried receptions from public health officials back in 2008, but neither has actually been outlawed, probably because nothing in them is illegal. HBB claims their product, which is available in head shops around Dallas, should be considered a "supplement," not a food item. Conveniently, that means the company's not liable for proving its safety. Just like those diet pills they sell next to the cash register at gas stations.

Lazy Larry isn't the only melatonin-brownie on the market. There's also Kush Cakes, which feature tie-dye packaging and a green, spiky, plantlike logo. Larry the Brownie has droopy eyes and happy little grin on the brownie's label. It all seems a little marijuana reference-y, as I mentioned to the employees at the pipe store.

"They're nowhere near pot brownies," said one employee. (I agreed not to name their shop because I wanted their stoner-nalysis, and they didn't have permission from their boss to talk.)

Now I spent six years in Santa Cruz, California, three of them at UC Santa Cruz, which Rolling Stone once dubbed the "Most Stoned Campus On Earth." I had nice chats with the guy who sat directly outside my door and smoked a fat joint before heading to class every morning. I was once aggressively interpretive-danced at by a very blissed-out gentleman during a Ween concert. I learned to ask a few direct questions before taking anyone's offer of bread, butter, pancakes or cookies.

So I know a thing or two about pot food and faux pot food, and I was picking up a distinct "Please Mistake Me For a Pot Brownie" vibe from these things. But the head-shop guys promised they wouldn't make me feel high. Just sleepy as hell.

"It's nothing you can't buy from GNC," one guy pointed out. Kush Cakes have four milligrams of melatonin per serving. Lazy Larry has two. (A whole brownie is two servings, for some reason; who eats half a brownie?) Both also have valerian root, rose hips and other sleepy-making hippie shit way down on their ingredient list, after all the sugar and soybean oil.

"I like 'em," said an employee. "I think they're awesome. But I usually cut them into quarters."

"I ate one of those once," another guy offered nostalgically. "I wasn't feeling anything, so then I drank one of those." He pointed at a can of Drank on the wall behind him. "And then I was five hours late for work."

"You'll sleep like a baby tonight," said a third guy. "A baby who's been drugged with cough syrup."

I bought two of each kind ($19 total) and headed back to Unfair Park HQ to persuade others to try them, hoping to determine (with science) exactly what they tasted like and if they, you know, actually did anything. Here's what they reported back:

Product Tester #1

"I felt like a dog getting peanut butter off the roof of my mouth. Tasted like brownie-flavored putty without any desired results."

Product Tester #2

"I suppose the piece of mela-brownie I ate has made a minor contribution to my background level of exhaustion. Still, I'm at the gym. Not sure if that's a great idea."

Product Tester #3

"I thought it was dusty, and lacking in any identifiable chocolaty flavor," explained the third guinea pig. "It was more like a vegan carob brownie -- not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just that it was definitely a brownie of purpose as opposed to a brownie of enjoyment or decadence. As a die-hard, long-term brownie fan, I'd have to bet against this one. Also, and it could be because I ate my bite while drinking an electrolyte-replacement energy drink-thing, but about 10 minutes after I ate it, and for about 8.5 seconds, my scalp felt too small. But, that could just be me. Other than that, it was just your basic crumbly vita-brownie."

Product Tester #4

"I can say with certainty that shit tastes worse than a real pot brownie." 

Product Tester #5 (Me)

I ate about a quarter of a Lazy Larry, just like the guy at the shop suggested. It tasted like stale, chalky carob and was unpleasantly, chemically chewy. Immediately after swallowing it, I suddenly realized that the dude in question was a foot taller than me and probably 75 pounds heavier. The part of my brain that uses reason (and measuring) and the part that finds stunts like this amusing suddenly collided, and I realized I was probably about to get very, very tired.

Twenty minutes later, I was sitting with a friend. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to take a nap now," I said, apparently cheerfully, before stumble-crawling to my bed and sleeping for two solid hours. I felt awful the rest of the night; my head was fuzzy, and my arms felt like they were suddenly, unnaturally heavy

If that sounds like a good time, the FDA wheel of justice moves pretty slow, and you're probably going to be able to get melatonin brownies for another few months before they go the way of Four Loko. Or you could just have a glass of red wine and a real brownie -- you'd probably sleep just as well. But where's the fun in that? 

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