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Cooking Marijuana Into "Hash Oil" Causing Disastrous Fires

By Chris May

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Across the country, emergency responders are warning people about a drug called hash oil. It's a dangerous recipe: marijuana leaves and extremely flammable butane that can cause explosions and fires.

While a helmet camera rolled, firefighters raced into an apartment building engulfed in flames, the disastrous end of cooking hash oil.

Hash oil, also called honey oil, is a concentrated form of marijuana. The drug is nothing new, but authorities say it's surging again in popularity, with instructions spread on YouTube.

Hash oil is made by dissolving marijuana leaves in liquid butane, then cooking it. It hardens into a thick waxy dose of highly concentrated THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. When it is reheated, the vapor emitted can be much stronger than marijuana.

"It takes much less," said one woman. "Just a little dab will do you."

That's why users call it "dabbing." Some use an electronic cigarette. One woman described "four or five drops, and I think I took four or five puffs off of it, and I was gone."

Others heat it with a butane torch.

A buildup of butane gas can explode. "Like, her skin was hanging off of her arm," described one woman who witnessed a fire. "You couldn't touch anything. It was so horrible."

Hash oil explosions have been reported in at least eight states. In Colorado, where marijuana is legal, there have been more than a dozen fires and explosions since the beginning of the year.

One witness, Fay Berryman, said, "I heard this loud explosion that shook my house and it almost felt like a gas line exploded."

Major Christopher Eckert works in the State Fire Marshal's Office in New Jersey. "A single canister of butane produces quite a lot of gas," Eckert said. "Many times, the people that do this are impaired by the drugs themselves."

Major Eckert says this is something that can potentially put anyone in jeopardy.

"You don't know what your neighbors are doing," Eckert said. "You don't know what's going on till the walls come tumbling down, basically."

While there have been no reports of hash oil fires here, emergency responders warn that a butane hash oil lab can be as dangerous as a meth lab.


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