Colorado's New Woe: Hash Oil Explosions
They're on the rise, and officials aren't sure how to handle
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2014 8:19 AM CDT

(Newser) – One unfortunate side effect of Colorado legalizing marijuana: Hash oil explosions are on the rise. So far this year, 10 people who tried to make hash oil in home labs have ended up in the state's only certified adult burn center with serious injuries, compared with 11 in all of last year and just one the year prior. "These today are the meth labs of the '90s," says one police officer. "It's probably just a matter of time until someone gets killed," a rep for Denver's fire department tells USA Today, noting the cases of butane that are found in these labs. But authorities are struggling with how to respond: While some of these "amateur chemists" have been charged with felonies, some prosecutors argue that the legalization law protects hash oil production, the AP reports.

Hash oil is made by packing castoffs from pot plants—think leaves and stems—into a pipe through which butane is then poured; the whole thing is then heated. Just a drop or two can give a better high than a joint, some say, but butane is highly flammable and its fumes can linger—meaning a single spark of static electricity or a stove's pilot light can cause a fiery explosion. (It also doesn't help that many people smoke while making hash oil, a police officer told KRDO last month.) Firefighters have responded to 31 such explosions so far this year, compared to 11 in all of last year, and that's just the reported and confirmed cases—the true number is likely higher, one expert says. One option for officials is to charge home chemists with arson and child abuse, as they did in one Denver case, in which a dad and his girlfriend caused an explosion and two children had to be saved from the burning home. (Another odd consequence of legalization: Fourth-graders were recently busted for drug-dealing.)