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.
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