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Explosions highlight dangers of making hash oil

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 9, 2013 at 8:37 pm •  Published: March 9, 2013
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Colorado has the nation's only regulated hash producers and legal guidelines for safe production, requiring only water-based hash. But enforcement is spotty, and illegal explosions persist.

A February house explosion in the Denver suburb of Lakewood injured four and was blamed on an illicit hash cook. The explosion renewed calls for Colorado to step up has regulations as the state mulls new rules for the broader recreational pot industry.

Lyga added that most police officers aren't familiar with hash oil production and when they come across the materials — namely PVC piping that is capped off — they think it's a pipe bomb. He said first responders will receive training in the coming weeks about what to be looking for when there is a possible hash oil explosion.

Hash oil is made from loose marijuana leaf and stem pieces that often are thrown out because of their poor quality. The weed crumbs are packed into a pipe and butane is poured through it. A heat source is used to separate the butane and what is left is the oil.

But without good ventilation, the vapors can build up, lie close to the floor and pose an unseen yet dangerous threat because they don't dissipate quickly. An open flame, static electricity or anything that can spark the gas is a recipe for disaster.

"You do it in your house, light a cigarette and it blows up. You've let the world know you are a moron," said Bob Melamede, a biology professor at the University of Colorado and president of Cannabis Science, Inc., a company that develops cannabinoid-based therapies for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases.

Broms, 22, said his own misfortune was due to stupidity.

The former Marine who deployed twice overseas, obtained a medical marijuana card and uses pot to help him sleep. He prefers hash oil because it's cleaner and he grows his own marijuana, so it's cheaper to extract himself than to buy it at a dispensary.

He had extracted the oil a couple of times on the deck of his condominium several miles outside of Portland. But cold weather forced him to make it inside one night. Gas vapors were sparked when a refrigerator timer kicked in, causing the blast.

Neighbors helped extinguish the flames and he was hospitalized with second-degree burns.

Broms is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday when he could face charges, said Chris Lewman, a deputy district attorney in Washington County.

Law enforcement officials contend it's illegal to change the drug's composition in a way that places people in danger, but the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act allows patients to covert pot to hashish or hash oil. The state acknowledged the legality last year in response to a lawsuit that is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Broms is grateful his neighbors weren't hurt and has no plans to extract hash oil in the future.

"I'm not doing any 'Breaking Bad,'" said Broms, referring to the TV show about a teacher-turned-methamphetamine manufacturer. "It was just basically a cooking accident."

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Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt in Denver contributed to this report.