DIY Hash Oil Is a Risky Trend Causing Explosions And Deadly Burn Wounds

A 29-year-old man in Santa Cruz, California was badly burned on Wednesday afternoon when his attempt to make hash oil in the bathroom of his Walk Circle home went up in flames. The explosion also scorched two nearby dogs.  

Hash oil—a.k.a. red oil, black oil, Indian oil, honey oil, Afghani and cherry leb—is a sticky, brown and carroty colored goo extracted from cannabis as a resin. Because it is a condensed extract of the plant's oils, it is higher in potency than regular marijuana and its psychoactive effects tend to last longer. But making it is a delicate process that involves an extractor device and some highly flammable butane gas.

Santa Cruz Police Department officers told the  San Francisco Chronicle they “found a large quantity of marijuana and more than a dozen butane canisters in the bathroom,” of the Walk Circle home.

According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, “The man was transported to a Santa Clara County trauma center after the 1:20 p.m. explosion and was in critical condition Wednesday night.”

This week's was the second hash-oil-related accident to occur in ten days in the small, coastal and pot-tolerant City of Santa Cruz. The earlier incident happened in the storage room of an apartment complex at 707 Third St., Santa Cruz on Sept. 29 and sent three men to the hospital with severe burns.

The risky business of homemade hash oil appears to be increasingly in vogue throughout the country, and in the greater San Francisco Bay Area in particular, as recent years have brought a slew of similar blasts.

The Chronicle article notes an incident in Livermore last year that resulted in a murder charge when a man and woman were critically burned in a hash oil explosion, and their third companion was killed. (The defendants ended up accepting plea deals resulting in lesser charges.)

The federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued a warning in February to police and fire departments nationwide to alert them to the hash oil trend, and resulting explosions. The warning notes that the blasts might be "misidentified as pipe bombs or methamphetamine lab explosions” because of the tubular instrument used in the extraction process.

A quick Google search of “hash oil” will bring up pages and pages of how-to articles explaining the “easy,”  DIY hash oil extraction process.

Santa Rosa police Sgt. Chad Heiser is head of the department’s narcotics unit, which has investigated multiple hash oil explosions. He told the Chronicle

"It's easy to get the ingredients, and the process itself is not a difficult process," Heiser said. "People think it's easy to do, and they try it and learn, sometimes the hard way, that it's a pretty dangerous process."

Steve Clark, deputy chief of the Santa Cruz Police Department, said home hash oil making has become noticeably more popular.

“[W]hat I think is going on here is there's almost a playful attitude around it, like, 'I can handle it,' " he told the Chronicle. "They're finding that, well, you really can't handle it. They don't fully appreciate the dangers behind it."

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