Denver hash oil production explosion nets arson charges


Legend has it this was actually a poorly-run BHO extraction.

There was a whole lot of shaking going on in northwest Denver last Sunday, when an attempt to make hash oil exploded in a rental duplex in the 2900 block of Julian Street. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey formally charged 40-year-old Jeff Garbarek, 39-year-old Steve Donnel and and 43-year-old Scott Mitchell with fourth-degree arson in connection with their cannabis-cooking incident; they are scheduled to appear in Denver County Court on April 9. In the meantime, hands off the butane! This was just the latest in a string of hash-oil disasters in the Mile High City; keep reading for our top six.

Number 6:

This image and others pertaining to the Grand Junction explosion come courtesy of KREX-TV.

March 9, 2014
On Sunday night, according to the Grand Junction Police Department, emergency personnel rushed to the Monument Inn, a motel on the town’s main drag of North Avenue, on a report of an explosion.
There, they found a small fire that needed extinguishing, plus two people injured badly enough to require hospitalization. One of the pair appeared to have burns on his body.

The presence of marijuana in the room quickly led investigators to the conclusion that the explosion had been caused by hash-oil making gone awry.
Here’s the department’s primer on hash oil and the inherent dangers of manufacturing it.

Marijuana butane hash oil is created by using butane to extract THC from marijuana to produce THC concentrate. THC is the chemical that creates the high for the user. Because of the flammable materials used there is a high risk of an explosion, especially when there’s an ignition source nearby. Lit cigarettes, static electricity, and even light switches are a few examples of potential ignition sources, but there are a variety of others. We are aware from news reports of similar explosions happening recently in several cities across the country, including incidents on the Front Range of Colorado.

At this point, it’d be tough not to be aware of hash-oil explosions.
In the meantime, the GJPD is investigating the Monument Inn as possible arson, with other charges possible.
Continue for more about six recent hash-oil explosions, and why the process is so dangerous, including more photos.

Number 5:


July 24, 2013
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, police were called to a motel on Nevada Avenue in the city in regard to a man and a woman who’d suffered what were described as severe burns.
In addition, cops received a report from another nearby location — a business on Mount View Lane — about the burned man. Specifically, he’d left several duffel bags in front of the business, and the items inside appeared to be pipe bombs.


The bomb squad was rushed to the scene, with a robot used to examine the bag.
Fortunately, the container didn’t hold pipe bombs. Cops quickly came to the conclusion that the man had “burned himself while attempting to extract THC from marijuana using heated pipes at a nearby creek where he’d been camping,” the Gazette reports.
The resulting injuries apparently didn’t make the man too happy. The owner of a transmission shop told the Gazette that he’d confronted the man and accused him of stealing his stuff, after recognizing him from surveillance footage.
The man’s reply? “I don’t have time for you. I’m going to the hospital” — at which point he pulled out a machete.
The transmission guy punched the man twice, at which point he went on his way — with scorch burns on his back so nasty that layers of skin were coming off and one of his thumbs barely attached to his hand.
Continue for more about six recent hash-oil explosions, and why the process is so dangerous, including more photos.

Number 4:

An image of the house from 7News coverage.

August 11, 2013
Location: Carr, Colorado
On the 11th, as we’ve reported, deputies with the Weld County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to a home on the 61600 block of County Road 19.5 in Carr — a wide open area captured in this interactive graphic. If you have problems seeing the image, click “View Larger Map.”

View Larger Map

At the address, deputies found Clayton Smith and Levi Allen being treated by fire/rescue personnel. Both were said to have suffered severe injuries. In addition, a small boy was present, and while his hair and eyebrows had been singed off and the skin had been burned off one heel, he was talkative.
The boy announced that Smith and Allen were making “oil that you use to smoke the weed.”
Inside the home, deputies found a small marijuana grow with twelve plants, as well as some glass vials described in an arrest report on view below as “commonly used for cocaine storage/transportation.” In addition, the report’s author noted that all the windows in the place had been blown out and the explosion “appeared to have lifted the roof up off the house.”
A deputy subsequently quizzed the home’s owner, Lavonne Bessler. She wasn’t home at the time of the big bang, but she pointed out that she’s a licensed medical marijuana caregiver. She said Smith and Allen help her with the extraction of hemp oil, but she couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been doing so outside.
Good point.
Initially, Smith wasn’t able to speak to investigators due to his injuries, but Allen told them the explosion happened when he opened a door by a swamp cooler. As for the boy, he was getting a glass of water in the kitchen, where hemp was being cooked, when the blast ripped through the house.
Did simply opening the door create a spark? Or was there a spark from the stove? Either is possible, although investigators found evidence of cigarette smoking on the site.
A couple of days later, the boy sat down with a forensic investigator. He was able to go into some detail about the process of making “ash oil, or maybe hash oil.” In addition, he quoted Bessler’s reaction upon seeing the catastrophe: “What’s going on, what happened?,” “The house got on fire because they did it wrong” and “What the fuck?”
Bessler likely repeated this last phrase upon learning that she’d been charged with one count of manufacturing a controlled substance. But the lion’s share of accusations are aimed at Smith and Allen. The warrants naming them list fourth-degree arson, manufacturing a marijuana concentrate and child abuse in conjunction with manufacturing a controlled substance — felonies all.
Here’s the arrest affidavit for Smith; it’s redacted to remove the name of the boy, among other things.

Clayton Smith Affidavit

Continue for more about six recent hash-oil explosions, and why the process is so dangerous, including more photos.

Number 3:


December 18, 2013
Location: Longmont
At about 12:40 p.m. on the 18th, Fox31 reports, members of the Longmont Police Department were called to a home at 30 James Circle in the city.
The reason? Neighbors had heard an explosion — and they definitely weren’t imagining things.
The blast was centered in the garage, burning two people in the process. Witnesses reportedly saw them running out of the structure on fire.


A Longmont PD rep confirmed that an investigation of the two individuals, plus a third person, was underway in relation to possible arson — not that they apparently intended things to go awry.
“We believe they were doing a butane extraction, trying to capture hash oil,” the spokesman said.
“All it takes is one quick spark,” added an arson expert with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. “The pilot light on a water heater or a furnace and kaboom.”
Continue for more about six recent hash-oil explosions, and why the process is so dangerous, including more photos.

Number 2:


February 8, 2014
Location: Aurora
On the 8th, CBS4 reports, the Aurora Fire Department responded to the 4500 block of South Hannibal Street — an apartment complex.
The reason: an explosion that a neighbor described as “terrible.”
That term would probably be seconded by the two guys who were hospitalized afterward.
Fire department investigators quickly confirmed that the blast appeared to have been caused by a botched attempt to manufacture hash oil — and unfortunately, this conclusion was far from unique.


Officials said that there’d been at least one hash-oil explosion per month in Aurora since November.
One resident of the apartment complex was far from forgiving about what took place. In her words, “I think that is ugly and my neighbor, I’m sorry, needs to go to jail.”
Continue for more about six recent hash-oil explosions, and why the process is so dangerous, including more photos.

Number 1:


March 1, 2014
Location: Colorado Springs
On the first Saturday night in March, according to the Colorado Springs Police Department, CSPD officers and members of the community’s fire department were dispatched to the 300 block of University Drive.
There, they found a 51-year-old man subsequently identified as Lee Brown. He was outside, but he’s said to have acknowledged that he lived in the apartment were the explosion took place.
Investigators subsequently concluded that two people were inside when the blast occurred: Brown and a 29-year-old male.
And yes, they’re suspected of having been in the process of making hash oil with butane fuel when their efforts went off the rails.


Brown was promptly arrested on suspicion of unlawful possession and manufacturing of a controlled substance; offenses related to marijuana and marijuana concentrate; keeping, maintaining, controlling, renting or making available property for the unlawful distribution of manufacture of controlled substances; and reckless endangerment.
There’s a lot of that last one going around.
Continue for more about the process of making hash-oil, and what can go wrong, including graphics.

Here’s a description of the hash-oil making process we first shared last October. The video refers to an explosion in San Diego:
An animated video produced after the incident does a pretty efficient job of describing the hash-oil-making procedure and how it can go wrong. The entire clip is below, but here’s a quick graphic primer.
The process begins with finely ground marijuana being placed into a special pipe….

…after which butane is blasted through it.

The butane evaporates from the oil….

…when a container holding it is placed in hot water:

However, an explosion can occur when a spark from, say, a lit cigarette ignites the fumes.

Because of this possibility, butane hash oil is typically manufactured outside, so that the butane can dissipate harmlessly. Inside, it can collect and linger — and when ignition occurs, the results can be ugly.
Here’s the complete video:

This story originally ran over at