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Going to pot: Maine eatery uses weed to sedate lobsters

Maine restaurant wants a humane death before cooking its seafood but runs afoul of animal rights group, Peta

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Lobsters awaiting their fate in a seafood restaurant tank. Charlotte Gill, owner of Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, said she had been looking for a way to reduce the suffering of her signature menu item.

Washington

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 - granting them, she says, a blissfully humane death.

Charlotte Gill, owner of Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, told Portland Press Herald that she had been looking for a way to reduce the suffering of her signature menu item. She experimented with blowing marijuana smoke into a tank with one lobster, Roscoe. When she removed his claw bands and returned him to a tank with the other lobsters, she says, he was less aggressive.

Ms Gill has a medical marijuana licence.

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She plans to offer this cooking method as an option for customers who want their lobsters to be baked before they are boiled. But that doesn't mean customers will get stoned from their dinner.

"THC breaks down completely by 392 deg C, therefore we will use both steam as well as a heat process that will expose the meat to 420-deg extended temperature in order to ensure there is no possibility of a carry-over effect," she said.

So where some see a humane death for the lobster, others see a waste of perfectly good weed. (THC is one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in 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, such as 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.

Robert Elwood, a professor emeritus of animal behaviour at Queen's University Belfast, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: "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 gives them some protection in case they do feel pain."

Other researchers disagree. Bob Bayer, executive director of the University of Maine's Lobster Institute, told The Washington Post in January: "They can sense their environment, but they probably cannot process pain."

In New Zealand and in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, it is illegal to cook lobsters by boiling them alive; earlier this year, Switzerland passed a law that live lobsters must be stunned before they can be cooked live.

Back to Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound. The news launched a thousand weed jokes on Twitter, including this one from Morning Air Show (@WXBQ-MAS): "Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, Maine is getting their lobsters high off marijuana smoke before killing and cooking them. They believe it to be more humane than the traditional methods. I wonder if they smoke sea weed??"

But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) is not laughing. The vegan advocacy group, which once tried to erect a gravestone for lobsters killed in a truck crash, is opposed to boiling lobsters alive under any circumstances.

"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 said in a statement to Marijuana Moment.

As for Roscoe, the stoned lobster: To thank him for his service to all lobster-kind, Ms Gill released him into the ocean, which must have been pretty trippy for him. WP