Renaissance in hash oil manufacturing bringing a rash of explosions

  • Vice President of the Sonoma Patient Group, Dave McCullick, inspects various types of hash oil that have been formed into a type of wax for convenience in Santa Rosa on Friday, August 9, 2013. The manufacturing of of this oil is a dangerous process to amateur hash makers causing home fires, as dispensaries like the Sonoma Patient Group use manufactures with expensive equipment. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

When firefighters arrived at an east Santa Rosa apartment last week, they found telltale signs of a troubling drug trend: a charred kitchen floor, a plastic tube full of marijuana and a can of highly flammable butane gas.

Though hash oil, a potent cannabis derivative, has been around for millennia, it is experiencing a renaissance thanks to magazine articles and online videos, some of which tout an unsafe manufacturing process that has caused a number of explosions in homes throughout the North Coast and around the country.

Dave McCullick, vice president of Santa Rosa pot dispensary Sonoma Patient Group, extolled the virtues of hash oil, a drug whose legal status in California is murky. But he said it must be produced safely.

Hash Oil Hazards


"The manufacturing is the part where people need to get educated," McCullick said. "It would have a lot more support if it wasn't made in a dangerous way."

When it comes to hash oil, McCullick is a bit of a connoisseur. He said his dispensary only sells top-shelf hash oil made by the safest methods.

The only acceptable way to make the golden brown waxy chunks of hash oil — also known as honey oil, shatter or dabs — is with an expensive extracting machine that uses carbon dioxide, McCullick said.

Two Santa Rosa men were arrested Wednesday night after a butane hash oil accident sparked an explosion that nearly torched a kitchen and left one with third degree burns.

"This process is extremely volatile," said Santa Rosa Fire battalion chief Mark Basque, who responded to Wednesday's fire. "It creates a flammable or explosive atmosphere."

Dozens of fires in California have been linked to hash oil making, including at least three in Santa Rosa in the past six months.

In a mid-July explosion, a 31-year-old Santa Rosa man who was trying to produce hash oil suffered life-threatening burns that covered more than half his body. A Petaluma teen suffered burns to his face in a hash oil accident in March.

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