Baked, then boiled: Why one Maine restaurant is sedating lobsters with marijuana smoke

Lobsters in one Maine restaurant go out in a blaze of glory once they hit the pot. The owner of a lobster joint is sedating her crustaceans with marijuana smoke before cooking them — which she says gives them a blissfully humane death.

Charlotte Gill, owner of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, told the Portland Press Herald that she had been looking for a way to reduce suffering of her signature menu item. She experimented with blowing marijuana smoke into a tank with one lobster, Roscoe (basically, she hot-boxed him). When Gill returned him to a tank with the other lobsters without his claw bands, she says, he was less aggressive. Gill has a medical marijuana license.

She plans to offer it as an option for customers who want their lobsters to be baked before they’re boiled. But that doesn’t mean the customer will get stoned from their dinner.

“THC breaks down completely by 392 degrees, therefore we will use both steam as well as a heat process that will expose the meat to 420-degree extended temperature, in order to ensure there is no possibility of carry-over effect,” Gill told the Press Herald. So while some might see it as a humane death for the lobster, others might think it’s a waste of perfectly good weed.

Chefs and scientists have long pondered the question of whether lobsters feel pain. Experiments have shown that crustaceans are responsive to stimuli that cause pain, like heat, but it is unclear whether this is a reflex or a pain response from their nervous systems. It’s also unclear whether cannabis has the same pain-relieving effect on lobsters that it has on humans.

“We can’t prove pain in any animal species. You can only do studies and if they’re consistent with the idea of pain, you begin to think perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s what we call the precautionary principle, and [it] gives them some protection in case they do feel pain,” Robert Elwood, a professor emeritus of animal behavior at Queen’s University Belfast, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.