Four researchers to discuss the science and politics of pot at Aeronaut Brewery inFlickr/Tanjila Ahmed

Looking for a brainy way to celebrate 4/20, the high holiday of pot?

Four experts on the state of marijuana will be taking questions over cold ones on Wednesday at the Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville.

The talk, "In a Haze: Studying Marijuana," is part of the ongoing Cambridge Science Festival in collaboration with the speaker series Science by the Pint, run by the Harvard graduate student organization Science in the News. It's bringing together educators from Harvard and Boston University to chat about the science and politics of the infamous herb.

The bar-side chat begins with short speeches, then becomes a more casual affair aimed at getting curious minds and authorities in the same room, said moderator Aimee Gillespie, who organized it.


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BU lecturer Seth Blumenthal will be there. His expertise is in the “gateway theory,” the idea that using marijuana can lead one to try other, more dangerous drugs.

The theory rose to prominence during the Richard Nixon presidency, said Blumenthal, a historian who teaches in BU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“It was acknowledged in many ways that marijuana’s effects on their own were relatively insignificant, and so the impetus was to explain how taking marijuana led to something a lot worse,” he said.

He said he doesn’t take a stance on whether the theory is valid, instead studying the way it’s been used in politics over the past half-century.

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Opponents of legalization in Massachusetts have cited the idea as a reason not to vote for a pro-pot ballot initiative in November. That may not be a winning strategy, Blumenthal said.

“It’s a bit outdated,” he said. “And it doesn’t seem to persuade voters as much as it used to.”

Other speakers include Harvard’s Staci Gruber, director of Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery, Jodi Gilman of Harvard Medical School’s Center for Addiction Medicine and BU’s Anne Short, who has studied the impact of marijuana cultivation on the environment.

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