That’s what one long-time cannabis advocate and seafood restauranteur is proposing. Charlotte Gill, owner of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, Maine, is a believer in hotboxing lobsters — sedating them with cannabis smoke before cooking — to produce a more humane death as well as a better-tasting creature that has not been stressed out to the max.
On her website, Gill writes that “If we are going to take a life we believe we have the obligation to do so as compassionately as possible. It is our hope that practices incorporating cannabis will become industry standards. This world has enough pain and suffering and it’s time to make it a better place.” Noble as this sentiment may be, the state of Maine sees things differently.
Gill bases her position on her own experiments where frisky lobsters were exposed to smoke for five minutes — turning them into “limp noodles.” She and her employees saw little or no reaction when the “stoned” lobsters were placed in boiling water: no more climbing over each other in an attempt to escape the pot. She also claims the lobster meat was “sweeter, lighter and better because there is little or no stress hormone in their system.
The state, however, considers cannabis federally illegal — so their position is that a federally‑regulated restaurant cannot incorporate cannabis into the food it serves. In addition, while cannabis use is now legal in Maine, the Office of Marijuana Policy is openly skeptical about how the cannabis is being obtained — as they stated in a quote that could have come from Captain Obvious, “Lobsters are not people.”
So what’s the next step for Gill? She’d like to have universally-accepted scientific research back up her own anecdotal experiments. And so far, scientists at the University of California San Diego appear to be doing just that in their current study “Effects of vapor exposure to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the Maine Lobster (Homarus americanus)” — now in the peer review stage. While the paper calls for more research into the topic, it confirms that lobsters exhibit significant behavioral changes after 30 minutes exposure to THC vapor.
In the meantime, diners at Charlottes’ Legendary Lobster Pound can opt for crustaceans sedated with valerian — a legal flowering plant promoted for its mild sedative effect and use as a sleep aid. Gill either adds the plant to the cooking water, or pipes the vapor directly into the lobsters’ mouths. She estimates that valerian is “about 75 to 100 percent as effective” as cannabis; however it costs her more than cannabis would and she does not want to charge customers extra. While there is still debate over whether or not lobsters can even feel pain as they hit the boiling water, Gill wants her restaurant to be a place of “light and happiness” and insists she and her employees are “only a little group of hardworking Mainers trying to make the world a kinder place.”