Can Cannabis Sedate Lobsters?

Sedating lobsters with marijuana smoke
Image: PublicDomainPictures

Dumping a live lobster into a pot of boiling water is considered cruel by many – one restaurant owner believes she has found a more humane solution involving the use of cannabis.

While a popular way of sedating crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters is to put them in freezer for a short period prior to boiling, Charlotte Gill of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound of Maine in the USA has developed a different method.

A report earlier this month on Mount Desert Islander states:

“In an experiment to test the affect (sic) of cannabis on lobsters, Roscoe the lobster was placed for a few minutes in a covered box with about two inches of water at the bottom. Marijuana smoke was then blown into the water at the bottom of the box. Gill’s hypothesis is that the treatment sedates the animals and could make their deaths less traumatic.”

For this to work, it raises a number of questions, including.

a) Do lobsters have cannabinoid receptors?
b) If so, what effect does cannabis have on the lobster?

Not all animals react the same way to THC – for example, dogs are particularly sensitive to THC, which can create some nasty effects.

While mammals, birds, reptiles and fish have cannabinoid receptors, their presence in invertebrates has been controversial due to conflicting evidence.

With regard to a), this paper suggests lobsters do have cannabinoid receptors. In relation to b) the same paper states:

“Regarding crustaceans, THC suppressed neuromuscular junction activity in the lobster H. americanus (Level-II evidence, Turkanis & Karler, 1988)”.

Neuromuscular junction refers to the synapse between a motor neuron and a skeletal muscle fiber. Lack of activity would prevent contraction of muscles, perhaps making it appear the lobster wasn’t experiencing pain.

There’s a lot of unanswered questions about this method, including whether the method of administration (smoke) enables the lobster to ingest THC, but one thing is certain – it has created a lot of interest in Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound. It has also gained the attention of the state’s government, which according to the business  asked the restaurant not to move forward with making “high-end” lobsters available to the public.

As this was a request, not a direction, and after performing due diligence with regard to state laws, the business is steaming ahead with its plans to sell high-end lobsters and moving up the date to next month.

“After being contacted by the state, and upon reviewing its present laws and codes applicable to this arena, (and then making a few minor adjustments to our procedure), we are completely confident that we will be able to proceed as planned,” the business states.