The mother of a 13-year-old boy made butane hash oil from marijuana in a Michigan hotel on May 17, 2017. The fire caused serious injuries to both Brian Adams and his brother. As Michigan voters consider the legalization of marijuana, they need to evaluate how they will pay for these tragedies that occur regularly on the west coast.
Xavier Renner died from the butane hash oil fire that rocked Humboldt County the day after California’s vote to legalize. That explosion happened in a Rio Dell garage on November 9, 2016. His friends, Aaron Mohr and Aaron Schisler, also had burns on 60 to 90 percent of their bodies. The landlords and friends working with him have been charged with murder, although Renner made the choice to experiment with making BHO, The charges against the landlords who own the detached garage are extreme.
BHO Labs are a By-Product of Increased Access to the Drug
On November 9, 2016, in California, three men in Humboldt County celebrated their marijuana freedom by extracting BHO from marijuana. On the first day pot was 100% legal in California, their actions sparked a fire. Helicopters airlifted the injured men to UC Davis Hospital because their burns were so extensive.
BHO or butane hash oil, which Californians call “honey oil” is a highly potent extract of the marijuana plant. Using highly flammable butane, amateurs extract the oil which can produce the strongest, most immediate high. Pot advocates claim that dangerous BHO fires are a by-product of “prohibition,” but they didn’t start happening until 2011, a good 15 years after so-called “medical” marijuana was legalized in 1996 by California. In 2009, medical marijuana dispensaries proliferated, and in 2010, the first BHO lab was discovered. By 2011, 8 illegal BHO labs were discovered, 3 of which exploded. In 2012, authorities uncovered 20 BHO labs, 16 of which had fires. In 2013, authorities found 68 BHO labs and 38 of them went up in flames. Nine people died from these BHO Labs in California that year.
In Washington, marijuana was legal — but not yet commercial – in 2013. A huge blast rocked an apartment complex in Bellevue. The BHO fire sparked huge flames and completely damaged two 12-unit apartment buildings. One hundred fire fighters and police spent 7 hours putting out the flames, in November, 2013. Neighbors jumped from the 2nd and 3rd floors. One elderly woman died from an injury sustained while fleeing from the fire.
The state did not take action, federal authorities needed to step in and establish that operating hash oil labs constituted reckless endangerment to human life. (Those responsible for the Bellevue fire and others convicted.) Today, both California and Colorado have laws making BHO manufacture in a residential setting a felony.
Worst Year for Fire and Death in 2014
In 2014, 32 people died in California from these explosions. In 2011, there were 5 explosions from butane extractions in California. The illegal practice grew until 2014, when 232 hash oil labs were discovered in California and 102 of them exploded. The state legislature then passed a law making the illegal manufacture of marijuana into hash oil a felony. If operating near a school or home with children, these crimes are now considered “aggravated felonies.”
In 2015, there were at least five hash oil fires in Butte and Shasta Counties. Seven children and five adults were at home during one of these fires. In another huge fire in Redding in 2015, residents of 12 units were evacuated as a result of the massive explosion.
The fire near Seattle’s SeaTac airport last March 21st occurred in a house next door to a day care center. No children were there at the time, but it was a close call.
In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown signed a law in 2016 making unlicensed production of marijuana extracts a felony. The bill was intended to target homemade butane hash oil setups. However, the fires are still taking place.