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March 26th, 2014 WM. WILLARD GREENE | Culture Features
 

Willie Weed: Boom Goes The Neophyte

willie-weed-webILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall

Some day in the near future, your neighborhood is likely to be rocked by an explosion. The force will probably to be minor: enough to blow out a few windows and maybe some drywall.

You’ll wonder whether the big one’s finally come, or your neighbors improperly installed their gas water heater, or a chemistry teacher afflicted with late-stage cancer decided to manufacture methamphetamine.

This theoretical explosion will not be caused by the po-po or a ceremonial meth cook simply living out the customs and rituals of a bygone culture. No, friends, our theoretical explosion will be due to the illegal marijuana trade. At least that’s how the media frame this scene. Your violently conservative familial relations will see the news that a marijuana grow house done blowed up.

“They’re exploding now? Evil is rising, Willie,” said my own such relation, a man born during World War II. “Houses didn’t explode when I was young.”

He’s right that marijuana wasn’t previously associated with blowing up. Recently, explosions associated with marijuana production rocked Forest Grove and Gresham. One of the men caught in the Gresham inferno died from his injuries.

Often, these incidents are reported as explosions at “grow operations.” In truth, the fiery booms have little to do with soil or fertilizer or plant matter or even high-wattage lighting. Rather, they’re caused by the haphazard preparation of butane hash oil. BHO is made by stripping plant matter of its cannabinoids and oils in a solvent bath. In most BHO preparation, the leftover butane is then boiled or vacuumed away, and proper ventilation mitigates the danger. Other times —particularly when morons are involved—a spark ignites the butane, and aspiring pot magnates wake up in the burn ward—or they wake up dead.

The end product is a concentrated form of cannabis that resembles earwax, and is commonly sold as shatter, oil or wax. The commander of the Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force recently called BHO “the crack cocaine of marijuana,” which is a bit like referring to Jimmy Carter as “the Stalin of American presidents.” There are numerous advantages to concentrated grass, most of which have nothing to do with potency. For medical patients, concentrates offer easy portability, and contrary to the crack comparisons, dosage levels are still easily manageable despite considerably higher THC levels (usually in the 80-to-90-percent range, compared to the approximately 20 percent found in strong bud). Obviously, the higher potency raises the potential for marijuana abuse, but most wax is vaporized and inhaled in small amounts.

So how much should you worry about the scourge of weed bombs? What I’d like to do is give you a warm mug of whole milk and sing you lullabies, only with the lyrics altered to assure the listener that BHO explosions are nothing to worry about. But in truth, marijuana is only going to become more available, and while weed’s availability to responsible consumers is a sea change worthy of frenzied applause, the flip side is it will also be available to the sort of people who aren’t familiar with the concept that working with large amounts of butane in enclosed areas is incredibly stupid.

Hyperbolic police officers in out-of-state suburbs aside, the citizens most angry at BHO proliferation are pro-cannabis advocates. The potential for random home explosions is a setback for the movement. The solution remains the same: If cannabis were legal, hash-oil production could be regulated and supervised.

In other words, the cure is in the poison.

 
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