DIY drug making is not as safe as it sounds.
The AP reports that in the past two months there have been at least three significant explosions in Southern California stemming from home lab production of hash oil, a potent marijuana byproduct made from plant parts that might otherwise be discarded.
Here's where it gets tricky. And by tricky we mean potentially deadly. And also illegal.
The extraction goes something like this: Loose leaves and stems are packed into a pipe. Butane is poured through it. A heat source is applied to separate the butane. And BOOM, what's left is hash oil. And maybe some of your skin, according to the Associated Press.
Hash oil, also known as honey oil, is illegal in California. It sells on average for about $50 a gram at marijuana dispensaries and has about 15 percent THC, the main intoxicant in marijuana. A drop or two can be as potent as a joint.
According to L.A. police detective Frank Lyga, most busted indoor marijuana grows have some sort of accompanying hash oil operation. Officials want to raise awareness of the potential hazards.
"As long as they are using flammable liquids, we're going to have explosions," Lyga said. "It's only a matter of time before something goes wrong and they blow off their hands or something even worse."
First responders will also be receiving additional training, said Lyga. Many are still unfamiliar with the materials of hash oil production — namely capped-off PVC piping — and tend to think it's a pipe bomb, he said.
Which is sort of accidentally true. With poor ventilation comes great combustibility, and when vapors accumulate in a house or room or apartment, they become an invisible bomb. Any open flame, or even a spark of static electricity, can potentially detonate them.
These do-it-yourself disasters have largely been recorded on the West Coast where states have passed medical marijuana laws.
Half-baked hash oil labs that recently exploded
San Diego: A hotel room near SeaWorld exploded in a smoky fit that reportedly felt like an earthquake and sent guests fleeing. A 22-year-old man, whose skin was hanging off him, was fighting for his life; two others were also injured. The scene was described as a war zone. The case has been submitted to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.
West Hollywood: An explosion inside an apartment shattered windows and bowed walls. Prosecutors charged 39-year-old Robert Bockoff with four felony counts, including manufacturing a controlled substance and recklessly causing a fire. Bockoff was badly injured and one investigator said his skin was basically blown off. An arrest warrant was issued for Bockoff after he failed to appear in court for his arraignment on Feb. 28.
Monrovia: A powerful blast lifted the ceiling of a house and set it ablaze. Three men were burned over 80 percent of their bodies. Hash oil was blamed for the eruption, but no charges have been filed.
Calabasas: A flash fire at a home near Malibu Creek State Park on Monday was traced to the extraction of highly-concentrated marijuana "butter," reports NBC LA . Three men in their 20s suffered second- and third-degree burns. A witness said the blast, which shattered windows in a nearby rental, burned hair, skin and clothes off of the men.
Does this sort of attention ruin the reputation of law-abiding leaf holders?