A man who suffered severe burns to 12 percent of his body when butane fumes ignited while he was making hash oil at home, demonstrates how he made the marijuana concentrate, at his home in Denver in May 2014. (Brennan Linsley, Associated Press file)

Update: Colorado bill to limit home hash oil extraction clears first hurdle

Colorado’s marijuana users would face new limits on making concentrates such as hash oil under a bill that passed its first test Thursday at the state Legislature.

A House committee voted 13-0 to make it a felony to use explosive gases to make hash oil at home. The bill follows a rash of explosions and injuries resulting from amateur hash oil production.

“Back in the 1990s, it was methamphetamine labs,” Thornton Police Sgt. Patrick Long said. “Nowadays we’re looking as something that’s just as dangerous — it’s butane hash explosions.”

In Colorado, at least 30 people were injured last year in 32 butane explosions involving hash oil. That’s according to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a state-federal enforcement program.

Lawmakers in Washington state are mulling similar limits. The city of Denver already bans some types of home hash production.

Methods abound for making hash oil, but one common practice is to force a solvent such as butane or propane gas or liquid through leafy cannabis, a process that separates its psychoactive material from buds, leaves and stems. After the extraction, the hash-maker then releases the gas or boils off the liquid, leaving behind marijuana’s psychoactive material in a potent goop.

The resulting product — called hash oil or shatter or wax in even more concentrated form — can be added to foods without the grassy taste raw pot imparts.

Without proper ventilation, though, the gases can pool in a room, where a spark from an appliance can trigger a severe explosion, knocking buildings off their foundation in some cases.

Several marijuana activists argued unsuccessfully Thursday that making hash with butane or propane is perfectly safe when done outside. They argued for increased public education, not limiting the process to only commercial growers.

Among the opponents was James Clark Jr., a marijuana caregiver from rural Akron. “I’m not a dispensary. Does that mean I can’t provide medicine for my patients in a safe manner?” Clark asked.

Despite the opposition, lawmakers approved the limits with little debate. The bill faces one more committee before heading to the full House for a debate.


Online: House Bill 1305