SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine (AP) — These lobsters are going to pot in more ways than one.
A Maine lobster pound is banking on using marijuana to try to make cooking the crustaceans a little more humane. The business, Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, is owned by a registered medical marijuana caregiver.
The owner, Charlotte Gill, put a test lobster in a box with a few inches of water before marijuana smoke was blown into the box, WMTW-TV reported. The animal was calmer for the next three weeks, and she released it into the ocean, she said.
"There have been all the studies done saying that lobsters don’t feel pain. That’s not true. I’ve cooked them for years. And I can assure you that they absolutely do. And there’s tremendous suffering,” Gill told WGME.
Gill, who has been steaming lobsters at her lobster pound for eight years, plans to use the new method at customers' requests, and then build a larger tank to sedate multiple lobsters at once.
"Lobsters have cannabinoid receptors. So, if they have the cannabinoid receptors, it means that they can utilize it,” Gill said. “This is not about getting lobsters high. It’s not about getting people high that are hoping to find an edible. It’s about trying to make a process that is largely inhumane better.”
She said it calmed even the most aggressive lobsters.
"The attitude was completely different,” Gill said. “The animal was peaceful. The animal was calm.”
It's unknown whether science says pot smoke actually calms lobsters or has any effect on their meat. But Win Watson, a zoologist with University of New Hampshire, said the possibility is worth studying.
Whether marijuana can influence a lobster's behavior depends on if the crustaceans react to cannabinoids, the chemical compounds in marijuana, he said.
"It's just an under-studied field, and maybe they play a role in other animals," he said. "I think it's possible they have receptors for these, and it affects their behavior."
Customers WGME spoke with are all for it.
"If it works for people, maybe it works for lobsters,” Bob Dowd, a tourist, said.
Others shared similar sentiments.
"I don’t smoke a lot of pot, but I would imagine it probably helps sedate them a little bit,” Courtney Turner, another tourist, said.
But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals oppose boiling lobsters.
“It is highly unlikely that getting a lobster high would make a lick of difference when it comes to the full-blown agony of being boiled or steamed alive,” PETA noted in a statement.
Despite objections from PETA, Gill is convinced this is a more humane way. She’s hoping to one day sell these crustaceans to customers who prefer their lobsters “baked” before they’re boiled.
Gill hasn’t sold any of the lobsters, but she’s done several experiments that found no THC in the person who ate it. State health inspectors asked her to stop getting lobsters high while they investigate. She’s hoping scientists will come to Maine and study the effects of marijuana on lobsters.
"If we can make it a more humane passage, we should,” Gill said.
(WGME contributed to this report.)