Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

Cannabis concentrates aren't worth blowing up your house

A Denver man demonstrates how butane is used to make concentrated cannabis oil. This man suffered severe burns to 12 per cent of his body after his home extraction operation went horribly wrong. (Brennan Linsley / The Associated Press files)

A Denver man demonstrates how butane is used to make concentrated cannabis oil. This man suffered severe burns to 12 per cent of his body after his home extraction operation went horribly wrong. (Brennan Linsley / The Associated Press files)

A Whitby, Ont. home explosion allegedly caused by a man using butane to produce high-potency cannabis oil serves as a perfect example of why the Cannabis Act restricts the use of organic solvents to modify cannabis in the first place.

Three men were injured after the detonation in a Greater Toronto Area home on Wednesday. Local news photos show what's left of the house leaning precariously to one side following the explosion.

Whitby police said the blast resulted from the use of butane to extract cannabinoids from cannabis.

Butane is commonly used as fuel for cooking or cigarette lighters, but it's also a cheap and readily-available solvent used to extract resin from cannabis bud and turn it into a viscous, high-potency oil. (This is often called butane hash oil, or butane honey oil due to its amber colour and goopy consistency.)

The cannabis concentrate called "shatter" is just one form of this oil, and butane is just one of many solvents that can be used to produce concentrates.

Basically, butane extraction involves packing a rigid tube full of cannabis, then blasting butane gas through one end of the tube until a concentrated liquid drips out the other side. Instructions are all over the internet. This mildly profane YouTube video is a good example of an ill-advised home butane extraction operation.

Do not, under any circumstances, try this at home. The Cannabis Act explicitly forbids "(altering) the chemical or physical properties of cannabis by the use of an organic solvent," except for companies that are licensed to do so. The man arrested in this case has been charged with that new crime.

Luckily, no one died in the Whitby explosion. The three men inside the house were all taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

But other people have been seriously hurt, and even killed, as a result of cannabis extraction using butane. Two men were critically injured in a butane explosion in New Brunswick in January. In March, a Cornwall, Ont. man was imprisoned for six years after an explosion from his home butane extraction operation killed his neighbour.

The federal government is still developing regulations that will allow for legal, commercially produced cannabis concentrates. Those products, along with cannabis edibles, should be available for legal purchase by Oct. 17, 2019.

Cannabis extraction with solvents such as butane can be done safely by professionals in an industrial setting with the right equipment and safeguards.

But as the latest incident in Whitby shows, using highly-flammable compounds to make cannabis concentrates at home is clearly a terrible idea.

Keep safe, keep un-exploded, and keep reading The Leaf News.


New on The Leaf

  • With a lack of cannabis seeds for sale in Canada, finding some in your legally bought package can be a bonus. (Andrew Ryan / Winnipeg Free Press files)

    With a lack of cannabis seeds for sale in Canada, finding some in your legally bought package can be a bonus. (Andrew Ryan / Winnipeg Free Press files)

    Seeds of hope: Are cannabis seeds found in legally-purchased bud legal to grow at home?
  • Privacy, breached: The privacy of thousands of Ontario Cannabis Store customers was compromised after someone hacked Canada Post's online delivery-tracking service.
  • Weedtech: A growing number of technology firms are entering the Canadian cannabis space.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • Canada Post regulations state cannabis sent through the mail can't have any markings to indicate what's in the package. (Ontario Cannabis Store handout)

    Canada Post regulations state cannabis sent through the mail can't have any markings to indicate what's in the package. (Ontario Cannabis Store handout)

    The big take-back: An Edmonton man who tried medical cannabis to treat his cancer was offered a job and passed a drug test, but the offer was withdrawn after he voluntarily disclosed his past medical cannabis use. He has filed a human rights complaint.
  • (Patented) knowledge is power: Canadian cannabis firms are spending big on research teams and patent lawyers in a bid to secure valuable intellectual property.
  • Pot in a package: Wondering how to legally ship cannabis by mail? Canada Post now has guidelines for mailing marijuana.

What Next

Share this article

Sign up to receive The Leaflet newsletter!

Recommended for you

Advertisement