Explosions last weekend highlight Michigan’s problem controlling BHO

Two explosions in one weekend

Two Butane Hash Oil (BHO) explosions ignited in Michigan last weekend, when amateurs were attempting to extract THC from marijuana to make “dabs.”  Michigan’s BHO problem will grow into a bigger problem, because legalizers succeeded in getting marijuana on the ballot in November.  (Read this article to understand the difference between decriminalization and legalization.)

On Saturday, January 20 in Orion Township, a tenant was making BHO  when he suddenly tried to light a cigarette, and everything exploded. The “victim”/maker of the substance was badly burned on his arms and face.   He’s been hospitalized, but the other four roommates made  it out of the house unharmed.

The next day a 25-year-old in a mobile home park blew out the windows of his kitchen when trying to make BHO.   It was 1:30 p.m. in Genesee County, when neighbors heard the loud explosion and called 911.

BHO Labs are part of the current marijuana culture

Butane hash oil fires occur in low rent neighborhoods and as well a exclusive communities such as Butternut Drive in Shelby Township, Macomb County.   Butane is the very flammable gas or liquid used in the extraction of THC for “dabs” or “wax.”   Making wax or dabs, which can be up to 90% THC is very profitable.  Marijuana buds cost between $15 and $20 per gram, but BHO averages a cost between $70 and $100 a gram.

A BHO fire in Oakland Count, Michigan caused explosive damage, shattering windows an objects. A 20-year-old started the fire. Photo: Oakland County sheriff’s office

In order to produce the substance, the producers must strain parts of the cannabis plant through liquid butane.  Then they heat the contents in order to evaporate the leftover residue which just leaves behind the wax-like substance.   In Humboldt County, CA, where a man died making BHO the first day pot was legal in California, officials now control the sale of butane.  Marijuana labs have replaced meth labs as the most dangerous drug labs of this decade.

The heating process is dangerous because one little spark from a match or static electricity can ignite an explosion.  Fire officials find BHO fires far more difficult to handle than ordinary house fires, because of their heat and explosiveness.

Brian Adams Survived Extreme Burns

On May 17, 2017, Brian Adams suffered from burns so extensive that his recovery will take years. His mom, Amanda Skardoutos, was attempting the extraction process at the Green Mill Motel in Manton, MI.  Her “lab” caught fire and exploded right over a gas line.  The entire roof blew  off the building, destroying half the motel and leaving her sons severely burned.
Investigators found 87 grams of marijuana, 19 butane canisters, a burnt metal pan containing charred residue, a glass hash oil smoking device, and a hot plate at the scene.  They charged Amanda with two counts of second-degree child abuse and one count of third-degree arson.

Brian, a 13-year-old at the time, suffered third degree burns to roughly 90% of his body.  Her younger son, Marcus, then 11 years old, suffered similar burns to 50% of his body. The mother spent three months in the hospital recovering, before going to jail.  A judge  sentenced her to 6-10 years in prison.

According to the National Business Group on Health, treatments for severe burns treatments cost from $200, 000 to millions of dollars.  The average treatment for severe burns is $1,617,345 and if there are complications with surgeries, healing, infections, anything like that-you are looking at more than $10 million for treatment.

Are BHO explosions a Michigan problem?

Firefighters fighting this type of fire, such as the one in Muskegon, find them more dangerous than regular house fires.

Jackson, MI firefighters extinguished a second floor fire, started by a 20-year-old medical marijuana cardholder in his parents home.

In 2016, at least 12 BHO explosions erupted in Michigan, although no one is officially tracking the problem.  The potential for harm to neighbors and child abuse are always a concern at these labs.  In 2016, an explosion in Grand Rapids occurred with a six-year-old child in the home.   In September of that year,  a 4-year-old and 6-year-old were home at the time of a fire in Niles, Michigan, near the Indiana border.  The father was charged with operating or maintaining a drug laboratory, a 10-year felony; manufacturing marijuana, a four-year felony; maintaining a drug house, a two-year felony; and two counts of second-degree child abuse, both 10-year felonies.

In October 2014, a 20-year-old  medical marijuana cardholder started a fire in his parents’ home while extracting THC.

This year Michigan will vote on legalizing marijuana and if the vote goes through, these types of activities are guaranteed to increase with the influx of marijuana distributors.  People will move to Michigan to start growhouses and set up black market businesses.

Michigan has enough street drugs and making one of these drugs legal so the state can raise money  will make the situation worse.  Increasing access to the drug allows for more explosions, more violence, more drug use, and more black market operations.