The cannabis industry is blowing up. In the 33 states where the drug is legal for medical or recreational use, at least 10 fires or explosions have occurred in the past five years at facilities that produce concentrates. Nearly all resulted in serious injuries for production-line staff.
In response to increased risk, two states bar the use of butane (a major culprit in combustions) to extract hash oil in professional operations. Eleven states require a “closed loop” system that contains the flammable agent, preventing its release into the air, where it can ignite. In Colorado, fire codes require any hazardous hash-oil extraction process to be performed in a non-combustible room, in a building that contains no child or health care facilities. Staff must be trained on safe operation of the extraction equipment, and the extraction room must be equipped with a gas detection system and multiple fire extinguishing systems.
Some states see a possible solution to hash extraction’s workplace dangers in not allowing extraction at all — a reaction that could actually throw even more fuel on the fire.
“It’s a big problem that states face after possession becomes legal, but before retail sales and businesses are legal,” Morgan Fox, media relations director at the National Cannabis Industry Association, explained to POLITICO. “There’s no source for these extracted products and concentrates other than the illicit market.”