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WASHINGTON, February 26 (By Sasha Horne for RIA Novosti) - US authorities are warning of a dangerous increase in explosions at homes and hotel rooms across the country that have left dozens of people badly burned while using butane to manufacture a concentrated form of marijuana called “hash oil.”
“They look it up on YouTube, they see how to make it, they are doing it all day with fumes filling their house and then kaboom!” said Amy Roderick, Special Agent with the San Diego division of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
On the street it’s called “Butane Honey Oil” (BHO) or “Dabs.”
The drug’s unofficial slogan, “A Little Dab'll Do Ya,” may have originated from the 1950s Brylcreem hair gel commercials, but for the users and manufactures of this highly potent marijuana plant extract, the phrase has a literal meaning.
DEA officials told RIA Novosti just a drop or two of BHO placed on a standard tobacco cigarette can have the same effects of smoking an entire joint of marijuana.
The dangers of “dabbing” come from the extraction process. BHO is made by finely grounding up marijuana leaves, stems and seeds and then using butane to extract and concentrate the most pure compounds from the plant. The process creates a highly-potent, sticky, orange substance, hence the drugs other popular nickname: “Ear Wax.”
And because butane is highly flammable without proper ventilation, “it explodes at the slightest spark of flame like a pilot light…or an electric switch,” said Russ Bellville, a marijuana activist and talk show host, in an online broadcast discussing the string of BHO-related explosions on radicalruss.com.
And while the practice of extracting hash oil from marijuana buds has been around for years, the recent uptick of explosions in neighborhoods, apartment buildings, and hotels led the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to issue a nationwide emergency services warning earlier this month advising first responders, fire, and local law enforcement officials to educate themselves about the dangers of hash oil explosions and what to be on the lookout for.
“Depending on conditions at the scene, these explosions can be misidentified as pipe bombs or methamphetamine lab explosions,” the FEMA warning said.
A quick online search turns up dozens of local news reports of BHO-related explosions in states across the country including Oregon, Kansas, and Michigan, a sign according to authorities, the dangerous manufacturing trend that was previously concentrated on the West coast, is slowly but surely making its way across the country.
Marijuana activists like Bellville, while supporting the use of the drug, raised concerns the increase in BHO-related explosions could have a negative effect on the fight to legalize marijuana.
“With dabs, your local action news team gets to do a marijuana story that shows crack pipe torches, used on black sticky heroin-looking goo made from a process that blows up like meth labs,” said Bellville in a commentary piece in Kush Magazine, a medical marijuana publication.
“Greedy weed dealers without much common sense are messing around with heavy explosive gasses in unventilated hotel rooms,” Bellville said on his YouTube channel likening the increase of “amateur” BHO producers to the amateur bootleggers of the Prohibition era, who on occasion would make an error resulting in their liquor sills blowing up in their faces.
One of the most recent explosions happened in January in a San Diego hotel room, not far from the popular tourist attraction Sea World. Authorities said a man in his 20s reportedly lit a cigarette during the BHO-extraction process. According to local media reports, the blast blew out the room’s windows and severely injured the man, who was burned from head to toe.
And while that incident is still under investigation, DEA officials said the sheer quantity of BHO found on the scene indicates the operation was not for personal consumption.
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