Hank Investigates: Hash Oil Butane Explosions

(WHDH) — This is surveillance video from inside a licensed medical marijuana dispensary in New Mexico. Two employees, professionals, are using butane gas to extract super-potent hash oil from marijuana.

Look what happens next. The gas ignites. The place explodes. Doors blow off. The room goes up in flames. The men run for their lives.

And it’s not just happening in labs. Selina’s boyfriend Alex decided to make hash oil on his own, in a California hotel room. When Selena was asleep, he used these cans of butane.

The gas ignited. Fire ripped through the room. Alex and Selina, on fire, barely escaped with their lives. They will never be the same.

Selina: “I don’t think people realize how dangerous it could be.”

Alex, now also covered in burns, was looking for hash oil’s powerful high. He’d learned how to use the butane from watching videos online. He says the videos don’t explain how, in an instant, one spark, even static electricity, can ignite the fumes.

Alex: “It’s just goes up in the blink of an eye. It just turns to everything is on fire, you don’t know what’s going on, and you’re just trying to survive.”

Local police tell me these makeshift hash oil labs, often set up in homes, are the newest drug-caused disaster on their radar.

Hank: “Are these the new meth labs?”
Chief John Carmichael, Jr. Walpole Police Chief: “Yes they are. You may not even know that it’s there until you have the explosion.”

Tewksbury police say there was an explosion at this house after someone tried to make hash oil. Three people were badly burned. Police found two dozen butane canisters.

This man, terrified, lived next door.

Neighbor: “It could have done some serious damage to my house, especially if my kids were here.”

In Medfield, after reports of smoke at this suburban home, investigators say they found a makeshift lab in the garage. It had exploded, blowing out the drug-filled refrigerator and the garage door. The police recovered 12 canisters of butane.

Police tell me it could be happening in the home next door to you, or the next apartment, or in your own basement.

Right now anyone can walk into a hardware store and buy butane, even your kids.

Carmichael: “We’ve had parents come up and say oh my god, I saw, you know, my child had that in their bedroom. It was in their trash can, and I have no idea why it was there.”
Hank: “So you were revealing to parents, what their own kids where doing?”
Carmichael: “Yes.”

Police say they’ve even found kids making hash oil in their cars.

Carmichael: “I fear that trend is going to increase.”

Police and district attorneys in Massachusetts are now pushing for stricter laws about who can buy butane and what it can be used for. In the newsroom I’m Hank Phillippi Ryan.

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