Hash Oil Explosions Related to Marijuana Pose Risk to Colorado Homes

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Ever since the recreational use of pot became legal in Colorado last year, authorities have been dealing with a different type of marijuana boom: hash oil explosions.

A new, dangerous method of extracting hash oil from marijuana which involves blasting it with butane has been producing a more concentrated high for smokers — and more house explosions than ever.

In 2013, Colorado had 12 such explosions. Last year, that number jumped to 32, and dozens of people were hospitalized. While there have been numerous injuries, no one has died from a hash oil explosion — yet.

The blast from a hash oil explosion is "very fast, very quick. It's not going to allow people to get out of the area in time," said Capt. Siegfried Klein of the Aurora, Colorado, Fire and Explosives Investigation Bureau.

The explosions blow out windows and rip apart kitchens. While there's no doubt that the chase for a more potent high is dangerous, there are still questions about whether or not it's illegal.

"There are certainly murky areas in the law right now," said Andrew Freedman, who works for Gov. John Hickenlooper's office. "I think some districts believe we can already prosecute people for trying to create butane hash oil at home, and there's other jurisdictions that don't think so, so I think it's a place for clarification that's needed in the state."

Freedman, who is known as Colorado's "marijuana czar," said he supports lawmakers who are trying to regulate hash oil processing. But not everyone feels the same way.

"We voted on it. It's legal. It shouldn't be in the criminal system," said Paul Mannaioni, a resident who was charged with arson and manufacturing marijuana after a hash oil explosion in Denver. Mannaioni has pleaded not guilty.

"This is not criminal arson because it's not intentional and it's not reckless," said Robert Corry, Mannaioni's defense attorney. "The people who were doing this were following Colorado law and accidents do happen, but in this country, an accident does not mean that a crime has necessarily occurred."

Image: The scene of a Colorado home in a hash oil explosion.
The scene of a Colorado home in a hash oil explosion.NBC News

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