An explosion in Forest Grove in which a man suffered serious burns is the latest in a rash of accidents related to the home manufacture of hash oil, a high-potency extract of marijuana.
The man, who has not been named but is known to be in his 20s, was in critical condition Friday afternoon at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland after he and others allegedly attempted to make hash oil using butane, a flammable solvent, inside a Forest Grove home.
Fire and police responded to the resulting explosion and two-alarm fire just after 5 a.m. Jan. 10. There were four others in the house at the time. Three were injured — one by jumping from a second-story window — but did not require hospital care, according to emergency officials.
A Pacific University security camera recorded the explosion on videotape.
“We are seeing an increase in these explosions, especially in the Pacific Northwest and where states are allowing medical marijuana,” said Capt. Mike Herb, spokesman for the Forest Grove Police Department.
The most popular way of making hash oil — a high-potency extract of marijuana — involves the use of flammable solvents, particularly butane, which can be purchased in hardware stores. When a heat source interacts with the solvent, a violent explosion can occur.
In March 2013, a blast in the 1900 block of C Street in Forest Grove injured five people, and three cats died as a result of the occupants’ attempt to extract tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from marijuana leaves. A hash oil explosion occurred “within the last year” at a home in the Sylvan area of Washington County, Herb said. And last May, another such incident caused fatal burns to a man in Gresham.
In Washington state, where voters approved the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, three hash oil manufacturing-related accidents have been recorded in recent weeks. Bellevue recorded a blast in November; Kirkland in December; and on Jan. 7, a blast in Seattle tore the fac,ade off an apartment building where occupants were cooking hash oil.
“This is an extremely dangerous practice, and [Friday’s incident] is not the last one we will hear of,” said Herb. “It used to be meth labs. This is the new danger.”
Investigators with the Westside Interagency Narcotics Team are assisting Forest Grove Police with the investigation.