Hash oil explosions on the rise 

Exploding drug labs and house fires are usually associated with meth, but extracting hash oil from marijuana can also cause an explosion, and it seems to be a growing problem.

In the last twelve months, Colorado Springs Police have confirmed five fires or explosions in the city caused by home hash-oil extractions. Two resulted in serious burns and hospitalizations.

A Manitou Springs couple was arrested for an explosion caused by a hash oil extraction in May. CBS Denver reported 12 explosions in Denver due to hash oil extractions in the first four months of 2014. Denver Post blog The Cannabist has reported 10 hospitalizations in the Denver area for burns caused by hash oil extractions so far in 2014 (there were 11 such burn hospitalizations in the area in all of 2013).

Butane hash oil, also called honey oil, shatter, dabs or earwax, is concentrated THC. It's growing more popular due to its potency and relative lack of smell. It's also more versatile than bud as it can be consumed either on its own or in edibles.

The oil itself is stable. Extracting it, however, requires pumping liquid butane — lighter fluid — through marijuana, which produces a solution of THC. Purifying the THC means evaporating the butane by boiling it off. Butane is a clear, scentless gas at room temperature. It's heavier than air and can settle in the corner of a room, in a basement or in a downstairs apartment.

"You have to take into account community responsibility and safety ... especially those in apartments. You're really risking the safety of your neighbors," says Jay Johnson, who owns and operates the Speak Easy vape lounge, a cannabis club with a focus on hash oils.

There are other concerns. The two arrested after the Manitou explosion, Audrey Horowitz and Michael Austin, were charged with first degree arson, reckless endangerment, and, due to the presence of Horowitz's 3-year-old daughter, child abuse.

After a call on April 17, police say they're charging a Colorado Springs couple with child abuse as well. In that case, police say they discovered a hash extraction in progress, though there was no explosion. The couple had their three children, police say, all 7 or younger, in the home at the time of the arrest. The couple are facing three misdemeanor charges of child abuse plus two other felonies, and police say their narcotics department is looking at additional charges.


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