Butane Hash Oil Fires Don’t End with Legalized Marijuana

Butane Hash Oil  Labs are a Byproduct of Marijuana Commercialization

On the first day pot was 100% legal in California, three men in Humboldt County celebrated their marijuana freedom by extracting butane hash oil (BHO) from marijuana.  Their actions sparked a fire.  Helicopters airlifted the injured men to UC Davis Hospital because their burns were so extensive.   It is rumored that two of the men died.

Car fire in Arcata, on November 2, 2016. There have been 5 BHO fires in the same county, Humboldt, since the vote to legalize on November 8

Wasn’t legalization going to solve these problems?  No, because “wax,” “shatter,” “budder” — the products made from BHO and sold in dispensaries — are more expensive than homemade stuff.

On November 2, seven days before pot became legal, a BHO fire exploded a car in Arcata, CA.  A similar fire on January 14, 2017, totaled a home near Arcata in Humboldt County, injuring two people. It was the fourth BHO lab discovered in Humboldt County  since legalization.   (The photo above is from a car fire in Arcata on November 2, 2016.)   

Overhead Video of Last Night’s Fire Before Fire Crews Arrive on Scene

BHO or butane hash oil, which Californians call “honey oil” is a highly potent extract of the marijuana plant. Online videos demonstrate how amateurs can make BHO at home. 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.   Read about Hash Oil’s Trail of Seared Skin and Annihilated Homes

Home Marijuana Labs are an “Explosive” Problem — Growing in Size

Redding fire
Five men were injured in a BHO fire in Redding, CA, in 2015. One of the men died a week later from his burns. At last count, there were at least 45 deaths from BHO fires in California.

In 2009, medical marijuana dispensaries grew in number, and in 2010, the first BHO lab was discovered in California.  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 stepped in and pressed charges for arson and reckless endangerment to human life. (Those responsible for the Bellevue fire and others have been convicted.) Today, both California and Colorado have laws making the unlicensed BHO manufacturing in a residential setting a felony.

butane hash oil
The Bellevue fire of November, 2013, smoldered 7 hours and destroyed 12 apartment units. One woman died, after having escaped the flames.

Worst Year for Fire and Death in 2014

 The illegal practice grew until 2014, when 232 hash oil labs were discovered in California and 102 of them exploded.  In 2014, 32 people died in California from these explosions.  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.”  Winter tends to be the season for hash oil explosions.

BHO labs also fired up in Colorado, with 32 explosions in 2014. The marijuana advocates argued that Amendment 64 made home processing of BHO legal.   Attorney General John Suthers disagreed, and the courts upheld that making BHO without a license is illegal. Yet, the explosions continue in Colorado.

People blow up cars, homes, apartments, and even hotels.  There’s already been at least one hotel explosion this year, in Santa Cruz.  These explosions affect those who life next door.  Visitors to a motel near Sea World in San Diego must have been shocked when a guestroom blew up in January, 2014, and forced others out.

In an explosion in Rancho Cordova, California in January 2014, 146 people in an apartment complex were displaced. In Walnut Creek, California, on Halloween, 2014, an entire 8-unit apartment building went up in flames and all residents were displaced. A fire in Redding, California that year also left multiple families homeless.  

In 2015, there were at least five butane 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.

Hash oil explosion causes massive apartment fire

The Explosions Continue in Washington and Oregon

On October 18, a man running a butane hash oil lab in Bellingham, Washington, suffered from severe burns.  No one else was hurt, but the fire displaced four residents living in two units downstairs.  It will take several months before the damages can be repaired.   

On August 19, a man who caused a BHO fire in Spokane was critically injured.  He was transported by air across the state to a hospital in Seattle.  

The fire near Seattle’s SeaTac airport last March 21st occurred in a house next door to a daycare 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 in Oregon.   A butane operation caused a trailer fire in December in Springfield.  In October, a blast rocked a legal marijuana business in Astoria. The fire sent two people to Legacy Oregon Burn Center.  A BHO-related explosion destroyed a Medford home last August.  It’s not clear that passing laws will do anything to stop the practice.

Marijuana was completely legal in Washington when the Bellevue fire occurred on November 5, 2013. Police had been notified of illegal activity 3 weeks earlier, but left because the residents showed their medical marijuana cards.

The next time someone says that Prohibition causes these explosions, please recognize that it’s propaganda, not TRUTH.


*Thanks to California Alliance for Drug-Endangered Children which keeps track of these statistics.