Everyone knows the story of the exploding meth lab. It’s a staple of redneck drug-making lore. But could there be a similar phenomenon sending the roofs of pot smokers into the sky?
Well, yes, actually. As longtime pot cultivators will tell you, trying to make hash oil at home is a risky venture that can end with a bang. And now, according to The Denver Post, fire officials in Colorado are reporting that it’s becoming something of a widespread problem.
There was the house in the northern Colorado town of Carr, for example. According to a boy injured in the recent blast, two men were making “oil that you use to make weed” when an explosion ripped the roof off, blew out the windows, knocked over a chimney, and sent the boy and two others to the hospital.
“We don’t encourage such a process,” said Patrick Love, spokesman for the Poudre Fire Authority. “It not only endangers the person who’s making it, but it could also endanger their neighbors.”
The Poudre department has dealt with two explosions caused by hash oil manufacture. There have been at least six others across the state, in Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Fort Collins, Lakewood and Colorado Springs. One of those fires was fatal.
Prosecutors have charged three people with felonies in the Carr case, but it’s not entirely clear whether homemade hash oil is legal. Weed businesses can make it, but they have to meet rigorous safety requirements.
Coloradans over 21 can grow limited amounts of marijuana at home, but it’s uncertain whether that means they can go a step further and turn it into oil. Prosecutors are using a law that bans the manufacture of cannabis concentrates.
But Brian Vicente, one of the author’s of the constitutional amendment that legalized pot in Colorado, said he believes that law allows for home oil production. Even so, there’s another law that lets localities ban the use of flammable chemicals when cultivating marijuana at home.
Making hash oil on your own is a relatively simple process, if dangerous. Even pot advocates agree it’s not something to fool around with. “You’re using potentially dangerous chemicals,” Vicente said.
Essentially, ground marijuana – bud or shake – is placed inside a length of PVC pipe with a small hole at one end and a filter at the other. Compressed butane is sprayed into the pipe through the hole, over the marijuana, through the filter, and into a bowl or other container. The container, now holding a sticky gel-like substance, is then placed on a container of hot water so the butane can evaporate.
What’s left is the gooey product known as hash oil. It’s incredibly potent, sometimes as much as 75 percent THC, and it’s easy to use.
But problems arise because butane fumes are highly flammable. They escape the pipe and float around the available space. If they come into contact with a spark or open flame, an explosion could follow.
“If there’s any ignition source anywhere near it, like a pilot light, then you have problems,” said Bill Maron, investigator with West Metro Fire Rescue.
Still, Vicente and other pot proponents say the problem is small and isn’t likely to become a major one.