For years, Charlotte Gill has viewed her Maine restaurant, Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound, as a paradox of sorts.
“This place brings so much joy,” she told Boston.com, describing a gathering spot where diners enjoy lobster rolls in between bouts of squirt-gun fights and Wiffle Ball matches. “If you could stand in outer space and look at this one little spot, you would see so much light and happiness. But it all comes at the expense of the lobster.”
Gill, who was distraught over the pain and suffering she believes lobsters feel when cooked alive, seriously considered turning her Southwest Harbor restaurant into a lemonade stand. Then she thought about the first time she got high — “It’s like if you were in a big sports arena and there was one little light on, and then all of a sudden someone turned all the lights on” — and knew that she could do something to ease her lobsters’ suffering.
After reading about cannabinoid receptors in invertebrates, Gill and her staff took a leftover cardboard box from a vendor and filled it with an inch of water, then covered the box and inserted a straw. They put their first test subject, named Roscoe, into the box and blew marijuana smoke through the straw. The result? Roscoe became very, very chill, she said.
“There was no desire to pinch or grab,” Gill said, noting that in the subsequent three weeks after she moved him back to the tank with his lobster friends, Roscoe remained relaxed, and she observed the other lobsters in the tank “calm down.” (Roscoe was eventually released back into the ocean as an appreciation for his service in her experiment.)
Before serving them to customers, the restaurant is still experimenting with a process where the crustacean is steamed for six minutes, then cooking the body and tail under an additional 420 degrees. Gill’s 82-year-old father is the test subject, and so far he hasn’t tested positive for THC after consuming the body and tail. He still needs to be tested after eating the claws, which did not undergo additional cooking.
If all goes well, Gill, a licensed medical marijuana caregiver in the state, is hoping to start serving her stoned lobsters next week.
“We’re not trying to make money on this; we’re not charging extra,” she said. “But if this is a place to create happiness, then [the lobster] needs to die in that fashion.” Plus, Gill said she thinks the meat tastes better — sweet, light, and “positive.”
Joseph Ayers, a professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern University, doesn’t believe giving cannabis to the lobsters makes any difference. While conducting a surgical experiment in his lab, he once saw a lobster eat its own tail.
“There have been studies since the late 1930s where people have actually taken the [nerve] cord of a lobster and frayed it into single axons, and nobody has ever reported a pain neuron,” he said.
Ayers also cited a lobster’s ability to release its own appendage as a survival mechanism — a behavior called autonomy — as evidence that they don’t feel pain. Not to mention that studying the crustacean’s reaction to weed is difficult to monitor: “You can’t interrogate them,” Ayers said. “This would be a very difficult experiment to perform.”
Gill was opposed to using cannabis until she first tried it six years ago. But her own experience has led her to believe that weed truly makes a difference in quality of life — both for humans and animals.
“This whole concept is based on trying to do the right thing, trying to make the world a better place,” she said. “The proof is in the lobster.”