Unintended Consequences: Legalizing Marijuana in Colorado Has Led to More Home Explosions

hash-lab-explosionAn unintended consequence to legalizing marijuana in Colorado has led to a drastic increase in the numbers of homes exploding or catching on fire.

What’s causing this to happen is that people are using highly flammable chemicals inside of their homes to extract hash oil from marijuana – causing some to set themselves on fire or even blow up their homes.

According to The New York Times

The explosions occur as people pump butane fuel through a tube packed with raw marijuana plants to draw out the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, producing a golden, highly potent concentrate that people sometimes call honey oil, earwax or shatter. The process can fill a room with volatile butane vapors that can be ignited by an errant spark or flame.

“They get enough vapors inside the building and it goes off, and it’ll bulge out the walls,” said Chuck Mathis, the fire marshal in Grand Junction.

Since marijuana legalization went into effect last year, the number of these instances rose from 12 to 32. It’s also put lawmakers in Colorado in an interesting position on how to deal with this phenomenon.

“This is uncharted territory,” said State Representative Mike Foote. “These things come up for the first time, and no one’s dealt with them before.”

And he’s right. This is clearly a gray area that definitely needs to be discussed. Because while it’s clear that the vast majority of people using marijuana are doing so responsiblity and legally, there’s something to be said about people who might not have any idea what they’re doing messing with extremely flammable substances to extract hash oil from the marijuana they’ve purchased.

Personally, I don’t think this is all that complicated. If most people are extracting the oil safely then there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be legal to do so. However, simply make it a crime if an “accident” occurs and you happen to blow up your house, apartment or set someone on fire. If the process can be done safely, but someone sets off an explosion, clearly they were being negligent with the process. I don’t view this as an issue with marijuana but an issue with those who are being irresponsible with it. That can be said for anything: if someone isn’t responsible in life (driving, drinking, operating heavy machinery) and some kind of damage or injury is a result of their negligence, they have to face the consequences for their actions.

Offer educational resources in the state to teach people how to perform the process safely. As with most things in life, education can make a world of difference.

In my opinion, that’s how you handle this. If someone wants to extract the oil, then they take the risk of legal action (though no risk of time in jail unless there’s serious injury or death) if they aren’t doing so responsibly, leading to an explosion or some other kind of incident. In the situations of rented homes and apartments, the apartment complexes or landlords need to put in their lease that tenants are not allowed to perform this process on site. You already see this in many places with restrictions on what kinds of barbecue grills you can use. Clearing this up in a lease is a quick and simple step that all rental properties should take going forward.

And before some anti-marijuana advocate goes off on some kind of a tangent about this being why marijuana shouldn’t be legal, let’s take a look at the report card for Colorado since the substance became legal for public purchase last year:

According to the state’s department of revenue, the first ten months of legal marijuana sales have resulted in nearly $40 million in tax revenue. The city of Denver saw a decrease in violent crime rates in the first 11 months of 2014, following a similar trend in 2013. Statewide traffic fatalities continue to decline, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Upwards of $8 million has been allocated to fund youth education and drug prevention efforts. And the state is enjoying economic growth and the lowest unemployment rate in years.

But like with all new things, there are going to be situations that must be dealt with as issues arise that aren’t clearly defined. And this is one of them. If marijuana was still illegal, a house blowing up because someone was extracting hash oil from the plant would be simple to deal with. But since it’s no longer illegal in Colorado, that’s added a new wrinkle into dealing with these home explosions. It’s no longer about someone being in possession of an illegal substance (like meth, coke, crack or heroin), it’s about people doing something with a legal substance that’s led to injury and property damage which falls into a legal gray area that lawmakers are going to have to figure out how to deal with.

I just hope when it’s all settled, common sense ultimately prevails.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • John E. Conway

    Sorry, but if they start a fire and cause damage to others properties and/or public property, that is property damage and should be publishable with jail time. Remember the victims deserve justice when they experience a loss, and that kind of lack regard for others is the problem.

    • Billy Bien

      Cold water or c02 extraction isn’t flammible. Maybe if someone manufactures inexpensive safe extraction kits with tutorials…?

      • John E. Conway

        That’s fine, how does this apply to what I was saying? I am only speaking of when they do cause damage to other peoples property, I am not talking about making the process completely illegal, only ensuring that when they do do damage, they should pay for it and that should have the potential for jail depending on the extent of negligence, if they tried to cover up or hide or deny their crime.

        However, I will say, this should have been foreseen if they knew that making pot legal also made has oil extraction legal. On the flipside, 32 is still not that great a number for the entire state, so lets see how they deal with it. lets also look at what is happening in Washington and if they are having similar problems.

    • meatwad_SSuppet

      Just like they punish those keeping fire starters called christmas trees wrapped in worn out light strands.

      • John E. Conway

        A better analogy would be those firing off illegal fireworks on certain holidays which can and do start fires from whi8ch homeowners never recover their lost lives, but your point is nevertheless valid. This does not mean it just be condoned. it just means we need to be better about ensuring that victims of these crimes are recognized, and that it isn’t victimless. And that we should be trying to ensure justice for all, not just those who get killed.


    When you legalize dope dopes move in next door. Colorado is lost.

    • Jim

      I think we should outlaw fire. That makes more sense than what you just posted.

      • kimi thomas

        Che­c­­­k ou­t h­­­­o­­­­­­­­w t­h­i­­­s h­­ou­­sew­ife ­­­h­­av­­­e ea­­­rn­­­ed 6 t­ho­us­a­n­d do­lla­­­rs/mo­­­nt­hly f­­­­­o­­­­r d­­­o­i­­­n­­g a j­­­o­b fr­­­o­m h­­om­e fo­­­r se­­ver­al h ev­­­e­r­y d­a­y a­­nd ho­­­­­­w t­o achie­v­­­e t­h­­at fo­­­­r yo­­­urs­­­elf>>>

        ————> gOO.gl/CxZqaD

      • I-RIGHT-I

        It do if you be stoned!

    • meatwad_SSuppet

      Do you still put up a christmas tree and leave your candles buring? Turkey fry anyone??

      • I-RIGHT-I

        …do you still pick your nose and eat it? Dummy.

  • meatwad_SSuppet

    Still they never get upset like this about the unattended candles and bone dry christmas trees. Just more unnecessary demonizing of a non toxic plant. Idiots will be idiots, try a better education system that tells the truth.

  • Ray M.

    “resulted in nearly $40 million in tax revenue”

    Which is why more states will legalize marijuana.

  • Gord S.

    All these people are members of the Darwin Award or should be.