When you write for a living, there are undoubtedly strange stories that come across the desk from time to time, but some are just so profoundly weird that you can’t help but share them.
This is precisely one of those times.
In the great State of Maine, (where the locals at Saddleback Mountain are far more rugged skiers than anywhere else on the east coast, by far), a lobster restaurant recently made headlines for the way in which they were helping their critters transition from this phase of their mortal being into a butter-laden delicacy in mere minutes. They way in which this restaurant would add a little humanity to the situation was by getting the lobsters high on marijuana before boiling them.
Like I said: Profoundly weird.
Now, however, the health department is getting involved, and the lobsters won’t be too happy about it.
The Main[sic] Department of Health and Human Services is shutting down attempts by Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound to relieve trauma to lobsters by getting them high before they are killed.
Owner Charlotte Gill claims that she and her employees have successfully calmed lobsters before killing them by pumping marijuana vapor into the water in their holding tanks. “It’s still a very alert lobster, but there’s no sign of agitation, no flailing of legs, no trying to pinch you,” Gill said. “So calm, in fact, that you’re able to freely touch the lobster all over without them trying to strike at you or to be aggressive in any way.”
And while growing marijuana is legal in Maine — and Gill is doing so herself — this practice is not. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Emily Spencer told the New York Times that health inspectors “would treat food served to consumers at licensed eating places and affected by marijuana, as has been described with this establishment, as adulterated and therefore illegal.”
For the record, there’s no telling if lobsters are even able to comprehend the effects of the THC.
Still, even if lobsters do feel pain, cannabis might not help. There is little doubt that under the correct circumstances and the correct species, cannabis can provide pain relief, says Dawn Boothe, a professor of pharmacology at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. But this is a far cry from assuming lobsters exposed to marijuana will be relieved of pain, or will even get high.
Boothe points to two problems. First, we don’t know if lobsters have the receptors that are necessary to interact with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, and prevent pain. “Some invertebrates have cannabinoid receptors; some do not,” she wrote in an email to The Verge. “And it is not necessarily cannabinoid receptors that are responsible for pain. Other pain receptors are involved and again, it is not clear if lobsters have these receptors.”
So, not only are they not getting high…they may not be able to feel the pain of being boiled to begin with.
Moral of the story: Save your herbs for after the boil.