Seven people were injured in an explosion in Fresno while trying to make hash oil, a casualty of what authorities say is a growing problem now that marijuana is easier to get and information about it is easier to find.
The explosion occurred at the Casa Blanca Apartments in central Fresno Jan. 17. Six men and a woman suffered burns. One of them, a man, suffered second-degree burns to more than 50 percent of his body.
“I noticed somebody that had been burned really badly,” one witness said. “They were going right in front of my living room window just screaming in pain.”
Witnesses described a fireball sent into the sky, and said they saw people running from the blast. Some jumped fences while on fire, and Fresno police said they would search area hospitals for more burn victims connected to the explosion.
“It makes me a little nervous, because that could have been my neighbor next to my apartment,” another witness said. “My apartment could have caught on fire, there were little kids who lived next door and they were terrified.”
Police said it’s the fourth explosion of its kind in city in the past two weeks, giving them cause for real concern.
Hash oil, also known as “honey oil,” is a purified form of THC. It’s typically made by spraying butane over marijuana plant inside a cylinder. The butane works as a solvent, dissolving the cannabis resin off the plant material.
The butane is then separated, leaving the resin, or oil, behind. It’s an especially potent, and increasingly popular, method of consuming cannabis. It typically produces a much more intense high than dried marijuana and, among other benefits, it’s portable and can be consumed discreetly in vaporizers and e-cigarettes.
Other solvents can be used: isopropyl alcohol, ether, chloroform. But these are harder to separate from the resin, and they’re all extremely flammable. Unfortunately, so is butane.
Burn victims have been going to hospitals, and some dying, in increasing numbers across the country as home hash oil becomes ever more popular. FEMA issued a special alert about the problem last year, noting “fires and explosions have blown out windows, walls, and caused numerous burn injuries.”
The biggest reason the process goes bad: People try to make hash oil indoors. Proper ventilation is critical to the extraction process. Butane sinks, meaning it pools around closed spaces, such as apartments or hotel rooms. A spark or ignition source can then turn the building into rubble.
But an equally big problem is that people get their information about honey oil from the Internet. The Web is replete with guides on using butane to separate resin, but many use the wrong devices, make no mention of safety precautions or simply don’t know what they’re talking about. And that’s a recipe for disaster.