Charlotte Gill, center, stands with her staff at Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound in the local village of Seawall on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Gill says she has devised a way to treat lobster with marijuana smoke before cooking them, in order to make the process of storing and then killing the crustaceans more humane. Credit: Bill Trotter

Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor has lived up to its name this past week after a story, first reported in the Mount Desert Islander, circulated on the internet. That’s because owner Charlotte Gill has come up with a process to get lobsters high before they die. She is convinced that a small dose of cannabis can help calm crustaceans before they’re cooked in a traditional lobster pot.

Over the past few days Gill said her phone at the lobster pound has been ringing off the hook and she’s been inundated with emails. Reporters and others want to know about her unusual technique for what could be called — excuse the pun — a “half-baked lobster” minus the corn and potatoes.

“There was a lot of hate mail at first, and I think it was from people that didn’t understand the process or thought that we weren’t animal lovers, or thought that our objective was just to get lobsters stoned in some crazy experiment,” she said.

[Maine restaurant gets lobsters high before killing them]

But as someone who does love animals and who’s been running a lobster pound for the past seven years, Gill takes the whole business very seriously. So when she serves up a succulent lobster dinner, she doesn’t want anything to suffer.

That’s where her prototype comes in. She has designed what could be considered the equivalent of a bong hit for lobsters in a small plastic box, without any residual effects for consumers.

“Basically, what that is it’s a device that allows smoke to go through a hosing system or tubing system, and then it saturates a low level of water in a container and then it fills the air space above it,” Gill said.

Gill said she’s observed enough lobsters to be able to tell that the little hit of marijuana makes a positive difference before they meet their maker. She thinks they’re more relaxed, almost sedated, and that’s something she considers more humane than the approach taken earlier this year in Switzerland, where it’s now illegal to boil a live lobster.

[Restaurant that sedates lobsters with marijuana under investigation]

“What they’ve offered as other methods are you can step it in the head or you can electrocute it, and I’m all for making the passage of the lobster better, but I’m thinking these are not good methods,” she said.

“I don’t think the science is there right now to say whether or not lobsters are anesthetized by marijuana, but it’s an intriguing idea and maybe worthy of exploration,” said Richard Wahle, a researcher at the school of marine science at the University of Maine and director of the Lobster Institute.

Wahle has also been fielding lots of questions about Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster. He said Switzerland’s effort to address lobster end-of-life treatment has given the issue a higher profile.

Of course, animal welfare groups say there’s an even simpler way to avoid this dilemma: Don’t eat animals at all. Gill said she not ready to become a vegetarian just yet, but she is focused on what she calls “high-end lobsters” and hopes her approach will elevate the discussion about how all animals raised for human consumption are treated.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

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