The following report addresses the issue of safety when making hash oil at home.
The opening months of Colorado’s first-in-the-nation recreational marijuana industry have seen a rise in fiery explosions and injuries as pot users try to make the drug’s intoxicating oil in crude home-based laboratories. Law enforcement and fire officials are grappling with how to respond, as the questionable legality of the process has made it difficult to punish amateur chemists. Some prosecutors are charging them with felonies, while others say hash oil production is protected under a provision of the new legal pot law.
More than a dozen explosions in the Denver area alone this year are being blamed on people cooking hash oil, reports CBS Denver.
The most recent case there was Monday morning. Investigators suspect a hash oil explosion was what caused a home to catch fire. No one was hurt, but the basement and first floor were seriously damaged.
“I was startled out of a dead sleep. I heard glass shattering,” neighbor Joules Poolski told CBS Denver.
Hash oil is typically made by packing the castoff leaves and stems of pot plants into a pipe and pouring highly flammable butane through it. The concoction is heated to make the potent oil for far less than it would take to purchase it in stores.
The golden mixture can be up to 80 percent THC, marijuana’s intoxicating chemical, and devotees say one or two drops can produce a more euphoric high than an entire joint. It can also be infused into baked goods or vaporized.
Without proper ventilation, butane fumes can linger. All it takes is a spark of static electricity to ignite a room.
Firefighters in the state have raced to at least 31 butane hash oil explosions this year, compared with 11 last year, according to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, an agency that has only recently started tallying cases. Each month, patents arrive at the University of Colorado Hospital’s burn center with deep, painful burns, almost all of which require surgery, associate nurse manager Camy Boyle said.
Colorado marijuana businesses are allowed to manufacture hash oil using butane, but with strict rules. Colorado’s pot laws allow adults 21 and over to grow up to six plants at home and cooks often use their own plants to make affordable hash oil in their kitchens or garages. As a result, explosions have happened primarily on private property.
There were at least five blasts in one week alone last month. In one case, two children had to be rescued from their burning suburban Denver town home after their father and his girlfriend caused a blast while making the extract.
In that case, authorities charged the homeowner with arson and child abuse, a common punishment for home cooks whose recipes ended in disaster. Denver, where at least eight explosions have occurred, banned home hash oil production under a portion of the building code that prohibits “creating an unsafe environment.”
Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said his office has pursued felony charges against people simply for cooking hash oil at home five to 10 times so far this year.
But Brian Vicente, who helped write the pot law, said its statute allowing the processing of marijuana plants includes home hash oil production. The law is vague but as the issue has evolved, legislators should step in to find a balance, he said.
Vicente said the fires will decline as people realize the dangers and head to pot shops instead.
(Story source – CBS News; edited for content)