Police: Heating marijuana caused apartment explosion

Police: Heating marijuana caused apartment explosion »Play Video
The explosion that caused significant damage to a Kirkland apartment Wednesday night was caused by heating marijuana, according to police.

KIKRLAND, Wash. -- A licensed medical marijuana provider in Kirkland caused some serious damage to his and a neighboring apartment Wednesday night when the marijuana he was heating to make hash oil exploded, according to the Kirkland Police Department. 

Lt. Mike Murray said the man, who operates a legal grow operation in an apartment in the 7200 block of Northeast 142nd Street, was using propane and butane to heat marijuana when it ignited and exploded.

"It was scary, it shook the whole building. I thought the roof was going to come down," says Charlene, who lives below the blown out apartment. She ran with her daughter to a neighbor until police said it was safe to return.

The "fairly significant" explosion lifted the roof off the man's apartment and blew out his windows and a sliding glass door, Murray said. Despite the damage, the man was not seriously injured, suffering some burns and loss of hair. The man's apartment has been condemned until it can be repaired, and he could possibly face reckless-endangerment charges, Murray said.

Neighbors were not happy when told of the source of the explosion.

"Everything blows up when they cook drugs," says Brian Wilson who lives in an apartment that shares a common wall. "Everybody in the building is now affected and that's really not fair to everybody."

The explosion is part of a growing trend across the nation, and the Federal Emergency Management Administration issued a memo in February citing the growing frequency of explosions from people using butane to extract hash oil from dried marijuana flowers.

Hash oil has a higher concentrations of THC, the active ingredient some people that gets people high, compared to dried flowers.

Users commonly make BHO, otherwise known as butane hash oil or butane honey oil. They do so filling glass or stainless steel tubes with marijuana and run butane through it. The filtered liquid then needs to be purged of butane usually by heat and that's where amateurs get into trouble and explosions can occur.

Producers of hash oil for medical marijuana distribution use safer methods says Riley Sessions, budtender and manager of New Millennium, a north Seattle medial marijuana dispensary.

"The people that do it for the production for the medical community have lab grade equipment, they run closed looped systems and they are very careful," says Sessions.

In August, three Mt. Vernon residents were burned while working with butane to extract the oil. A similar incident left a Bellingham man with serious burns back in 2011.