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Getting lobsters high before death may be more humane

ByShelby Hobohm

Oct 4, 2018

Lobster tanks are not known for being the most comfortable place for lobsters. In fact, studies have shown that most crustaceans, including lobsters, experience stress and pain that can be exacerbated by poor tank conditions.

Charlotte Gill, the owner of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Maine, is attempting to make the industry more humane by using medicinal cannabis to help sedate lobsters before killing them. “The animal is already going to be killed,” said Gill via Fox News. “It is far more humane to make it a kinder passage.” Gill is relying on evidence from a trial she performed herself in which a male lobster showed less aggressive tendencies after being exposed to cannabis smoke.  

Using cannabis as a way to relieve stress is not a new phenomenon. Regarded by some as something close to a “miracle drug”, humans have been using cannabis both medically and recreationally for thousands of years. In fact, evidence shows that the cultivation of cannabis may have started as early as ten thousand years ago.

So, just how effective is cannabis at reducing stress? Recent studies have shown that low doses may reduce the amount of stress a person is experiencing, but warn that higher doses have been shown to have the opposite effect and could cause increases in stress levels. One such study, performed by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the University of Chicago, found that while participants reported feeling varying levels of stress at different doses, physiological responses normally associated with stress such as blood pressure, cortisol levels, or heart rate showed no significant differences. While showing some preliminary support for the theory of stress relief, cannabis’ exact effects on stress remain unknown without further research.

Even if it is assumed that cannabis does help reduce stress levels in humans, these preliminary findings do not necessarily mean that cannabis would have the same effect on lobsters. Lobsters are invertebrates with a much simpler nervous system than humans, and the way they respond to stimulants can vary widely. Although researchers have found that providing anaesthetics to similar crustaceans, such as crabs or crayfish, may lead to fewer responses to negative stimuli, it is unknown if cannabis would be able to produce a similar response.

With cannabis, and in turn cannabis research, still stringently regulated across the world, it may be some time before science is able to answer our questions.

Image credit: Graham-H via Pixabay

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