Explosion at Vancouver house tied to drug activity, police say

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 

A weekend explosion at a house in Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood was caused by a botched attempt at turning marijuana into hash oil, a more potent version of the drug, authorities announced Tuesday.

Firefighters were called to the residence, 2005 E. 29th St., shortly after 7:20 p.m. Sunday for a reported explosion. Firefighters arrived and found no fire, but a small amount of smoke.

A male resident of the house suffered facial burns from the explosion and was taken to an area hospital by a friend, according to Vancouver police. His name was not released and his condition was not available.

Following the fire response, law enforcement stepped in.

Officers from the Vancouver Police Department investigated and found evidence of possible drug manufacturing. They then contacted the Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force to investigate.

Drug detectives served a search warrant late Sunday and located a large amount of processed marijuana, several butane cans and several smoking devices, police said.

While marijuana buds contain between 15 and 20 percent THC (the ingredient that causes the high), hash oil contains 80 to 90 percent THC, said Clark County Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. Mike Cooke, who oversees the drug task force. The process of refining the drug involves using butane to extract THC from the marijuana, and then boiling off the butane — leaving behind the more viscous, potent form of the drug.

That substance is then smoked by “dabbing,” or using a metal prong to dab the thick oil onto a pipe.

Cooke calls the process of making the drug “highly explosive,” but he isn’t sure it’s illegal.

“Since marijuana is now legal under state law, having it explode in your face when you’re converting it would be no different than me accidentally squirting too much lighter fluid onto a pile of burning barbecue charcoal,” he said. “It’s a stupid thing to do, but it’s not illegal.”

Authorities said the man who was burned was not arrested.

The agency continues to investigate and Cooke said detectives plan to pass along their report to the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to determine if any crime was committed.

Cooke said he feared this sort of situation after the passage of Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana.

“I expect we’ll see more of these explosions and more people being injured,” he said. “I hope no innocent children become victims.”