SOUTHWEST HARBOR — State inspectors who descended on Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound, where the owner is experimenting with using marijuana to calm her major menu item, found no violations during recent visits.
But that might just be because the meat of marijuana-sedated lobsters has yet to be served to the public.
In the last week, the lobster pound owned by Charlotte Gill has been visited by inspectors from two different departments within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Neither of the inspectors served Gill with violations during their visits, she said.
On Wednesday, HHS spokesperson Emily Spences said “food served to consumers at licensed eating places and affected by marijuana, as has been described with this establishment” would be considered “adulterated and therefore illegal.”
“The Maine Health Inspection Program did conduct an inspection,” Spencer continued, “and relayed this information to the owner of this establishment.” The state program “does not have information on the health implications or effects of ‘sedating’ lobsters with marijuana” and does not conduct testing on food, she said.
Going forward with her plan to sedate lobsters with marijuana smoke prior to cooking them for consumption, Gill plans to use recreational marijuana instead of that grown for medicinal purposes.
“[Medicinal] cannabis is only intended for a human being, not for a lobster,” Gill said Tuesday, citing current state law.
She also said the restaurant will submit cooked meat from lobsters sedated with marijuana for testing with the proper state agencies before serving it to the public.
“We’ve assured them we will go to them first,” said Gill. “We’ll be looking for cannabis in that meat that we would be selling.”
In a recent interview, Gill talked about an experiment she conducted with a lobster named Roscoe. He was placed in a closed tub with two inches of water on the bottom. Marijuana smoke was blown into the water making its way into the tub. Roscoe was exposed to the environment for about three minutes and only for that one experiment.
Gill and other employees at the restaurant noticed Roscoe became docile and seemed to calm the other lobsters in the restaurant’s tank down after the experience. After three weeks of observing his behavior, Roscoe was set free as a thank you from the restaurant owner.
News of Gill’s method of sedating lobsters prior to cooking them has gained world-wide attention.
“It’s really opened up some new discussions,” said Gill. “We welcome any help from the scientific community around the world to help us with this.”
Robert Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine said it’s not clear how much marijuana the lobsters are being exposed to and how the drug affects them is unknown.
It’s also not clear if marijuana or any sedative would make a lobster’s death less traumatic, Bayer said, because lobsters have a primitive nervous system similar to that of an insect.
“When you put them in boiling water, the primitive nervous system that does exist is destroyed so quickly they’re unlikely to feel anything at all,” he said.
Other lobsters have been recruited for the experiment at the restaurant since Roscoe. Meat from those lobsters has been consumed by employees and family in order to conduct their own evaluations.
“We’ve tested the individuals that have eaten it,” said Gill, noting there was no evidence found of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Less than a decade ago, Gill said, she was adamantly opposed to anything related to marijuana. As she puts it, she believed what she was told. In the last six years Gill has read as much material as possible to learn more about medicinal and other aspects of cannabis.
“It takes something that’s already really good and makes it even better,” said Gill about the meat from a lobster exposed to marijuana smoke. “It’s not a gimmick and there’s no up-charge for it.”
Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Gillian Graham contributed to this report.