According to the Liquor Control Board, the only people allowed to use a butane hash oil extraction system (final product pictured above) under the recreational system is someone who holds a processor license. (AP Photo/File)

Marijuana users blowing up their homes while trying to make hash oil

Call it an unintended consequence of legalizing recreational marijuana. People are blowing up their homes as they try to extract the hash oil from marijuana.

Two homes exploded within hours of each other on Tuesday, one in Shelton, the other in Seattle. The common denominator was marijuana users trying to extract the oils from their buds.

Twenty-four hours earlier, a rental home in Lake City was blown off its foundation by a hash oil extraction gone wrong.

Police and fire departments across the state are seeing a dramatic rise in the number of amateur hash-oil operations leading to explosions that knock homes off their foundations and send people to emergency rooms.

They've happened in every corner of the state from Vancouver, to Mount Vernon, to Spokane.

"Potentially, it could be deadly," said Mark Jamieson with Seattle Police.

So what are these guys up to exactly?

Hash oil is much more potent than standard marijuana. It has a much more concentrated THC content. Normal marijuana has up to 20 percent THC while hash oil can have up to a 70 percent concentration.

To extract the oils, people soak the marijuana with butane or other solvents. If they aren't careful, the gases escape and pool up and an explosion is just an ignition source away.

"You are using a butane bottle inside a refrigerator to assist in the extraction process that drips down on the coils or whatever and causes a spark," said Jamieson. "Very dangerous."

Using the oils from marijuana is actually the delivery method of choice for many marijuana users who don't want to smoke. The oils are used to make butter and other edibles. Some people light the oil patties and inhale the vapor.

Despite putting themselves at risk and potentially blowing up their homes, is it legal to do this?

The Washington State Liquor Control Board said it is illegal. Under I-502, you cannot use your legal recreational marijuana to make hash oil, even for your own consumption.

"The only people who will be able to use an extraction system under the recreational system is someone who holds a processor license," said Brian Smith with the Washington Liquor Control Board.

Those processors are required to use a closed-loop system that prevents any escape of the flammable gases or solvents used to extract the oils.

There is a large gray area in all of this, at least until the medical and recreational systems are matched up. Medical marijuana providers can extract the hash oil for their products right now, but only because they aren't regulated.

The Legislature is very close to regulating medical marijuana, which means that could soon change.

Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio Reporter
Chris loves the rush of covering breaking news and works hard to try to make sense of it all while telling stories about real people in extraordinary circumstances.
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