Police in Colorado Springs were forced to call in robotic assistance last week after a devastating explosion - apparently caused by a man preparing super-strong marijuana oil - struck the city.
Cops were alerted to the crisis following the blast, when a man - apparently in roughly the same condition as a Disney cartoon character might be portrayed following an explosive mishap - staggered into a local motel, presumably trailing smoke. He and a companion, both burned but apparently with non-life-threatening injuries, were taken to hospital in an ambulance.
It then transpired that the sooty and dishevelled pair had abandoned some duffle bags containing mysterious apparatus including pipes outside a nearby garage. Fearing that these might be some kind of deadly pipe bombs or similar, fleshy police elected - as is standard nowadays in such cases - to send in a robot.
The tin cop's reconnaissance revealed that in fact the blackened pipes and ancillaries were not intended to be a bomb, despite having caused a serious explosion at a nearby creek where the unlucky duo had been camping.
Rather, it transpired that the apparatus was intended for the production of "hash oil", a process whose increasing popularity has led to a wave of potentially deadly explosions across the States in recent months.
So many homebrew hash-oil blast incidents have taken place that the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) actually issued an alert on the subject earlier this year, saying:
Depending on conditions at the scene, these explosions can be misidentified as pipe bombs (because of the extraction vessel used) or methamphetamine lab explosions. First responders, fire marshals, bomb squads and drug task force personnel should receive training to identify items used in hash oil extraction.
Hash oil, also known under various other names such as "honey oil" and "earwax", is a concentrated form of cannabis produced by taking the ordinary leaf, putting it in a vessel of some sort (often a pipe) and adding butane from ordinary over-the-counter canisters. The butane acts to extract the cannabinoid-containing oils - the bit that the eager producer actually wants - from the plant.
However, this done, the remaining dissolved butane needs to be removed from the oil, generally by heating the mixture to boil out the butane: and it's at this stage that matters typically go awry. Butane gases emitted from the oil can build up in the surrounding volume to form an explosive fuel-air mix of the sort used in military "bunker buster" bombs (and other fearsome machinery such as the "Rodenator" burrow-blaster among others). This is unlikely outdoors or in a well-ventilated space, but many hash-oil fanciers neglect basic precautions.
Once a fuel-air mixture has developed, any spark or flame can cause it to explode: either from the heater used to evaporate the butane, or (not uncommonly) from the personal jazz cigarette or bong of the producer. It appears that the luckless Colorado Springs oilman may have been indulging in his own (or a related) product during the explosion, as following the blast his first move was to mount an addled, ineffectual armed robbery at the garage where he lost his equipment.
Despite being reportedly armed with a machete and a hatchet, the unnamed THC connoisseur was unable to carry out his master plan of stealing the power cables off a washer and dryer at the garage. Instead he received a punch in the face from a testy mechanic before stumbling off towards the motel where concerned staff called the emergency services.
The responding tin cop and his fleshy colleagues, having dealt with the potentially deadly marijuana pipe/bomb duffle bag, later found the Mad Bonger's campsite blackened and devastated by the blast during which he and his companion had been baked.
The Gazette of Colorado Springs has the story. ®