Pot before Pot: Restaurant says getting lobsters high before cooking alive is more humane

The questions over whether crustaceans like lobsters feel pain has been a hotly debated subject for years, and a restaurant in Maine thinks it’s come up with a new and more humane solution to boiling lobsters alive- sedate them with cannabis first.

At Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Maine, customers have the choice between sending the lobster straight into a boiling hot pot or into a hot box.

Charlotte Gill, the restaurant owner, claims the lobster feels far less pain if they’re stoned.

The 3 most common ways to kill a lobster are:

  • boiling/steaming it alive
  • stabbing it in the head
  • electrocuting

“These are both horrible options,” said Gill. “If we’re going to take a life we have a responsibility to do it as humanely as possible.”

So why not get the lobster high before steaming it alive?

Photo courtesy of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound.

How the lobsters get high

Getting a lobster high isn’t as crazy as it may sound. A 2005 study published by the European Society for Evolutionary Biology found “indirect proof” of the presence of cannabinoid receptors in lobsters.

Charlotte developed her method through experiments with one lucky lobster named Roscoe. According to the Mount Desert Islander, to get him stoned, Roscoe the Lobster was put in a covered box with a few inches of water at the bottom, and then cannabis smoke was blown into the water. After a few minutes, the elastic bands were taken off of his claws and he was put back into the lobster tank and monitored watched for 3 weeks.

That one hotbox session seemed to have a profound effect on him, making him much more sedated and chill as he apparently “never again wielded his claws as weapons”.

To show her gratitude to Roscoe for being the guinea pig, Charlotte released him back into the ocean at the end of the experiment.

In response to concerns that the lobster meat could be infused with THC, she said, ““THC breaks down completely by 392 degrees, therefore we will use both steam as well as a heat process that will expose the meat to 420 degree extended temperature, in order to ensure there is no possibility of carryover effect (even though the likelihood of such would be literally impossible).”

Those temperatures are all in Fahrenheit, of course. 420 degrees Fahrenheit is 215.6 degrees Celsius.

If getting the lobster stoned before steaming it sounds like a lot more expensive way to cook than just boiling or steaming it- tap water is free, after all, unlike cannabis- Charlotte Gill has a medical marijuana caregiver license in Maine and so she uses her own home-grown cannabis.

Do lobsters feel pain?

There’s no shortage of videos on YouTube and beyond showing chefs cooking lobsters which are dispatched in various ways- from boiling it alive to a stab through the head to electrocution- and while it’s impossible to get inside the mind of a lobster to know if it truly feels pain, Switzerland made it illegal to boil live lobsters earlier this year.

Boiling them alive is the most common way to cook lobsters, but now the Swiss must stun the lobsters first. Some people will put the lobster on ice before cooking to reduce its movement, but that has also been banned- in Italy.

The science is still out as to whether invertebrates like lobsters feel pain in the same way that humans do- their brains and nervous systems are completely alien to ours- but whether or not it’s stoned, the lobster would probably prefer that you don’t eat it at all.

Featured image courtesy of KQED Food.


The Independent: ‘Humane’ restaurant getting lobsters stoned before steaming them alive.

Mount Desert Islander: “Hot Box” Lobsters Touted.