Special Report: The Dangers of Hash Oil Production

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MACHESNEY PARK (WIFR) -- The Drug Enforcement Administration calls it marijuana's version of crack cocaine. And it could be being made anywhere, including right next door to any of us. The only way we'd know is if something goes terribly wrong. It's called hash oil and hash oil explosions are becoming a huge problem nationwide. The Stateline reported its first ever case recently in Machesney Park.

"I heard this small explosion, it sounded like a small bomb, says LeeAnn Moore.

That small bomb went off right next door to LeeAnn Moore's home. Her neighbor's freezer exploded. shattering windows. The Winnebago County Sheriff's Department claims they were trying to make hash oil.

"It was really a shock for everybody around here," says Moore.

Hash oil is marijuana that's been refined to get a stronger high. It's made by applying heat to compacted pot, drenched typically in butane. Deputies suspect these renters were trying to cool their product down.

"When you have explosive solvents, they're being utilized in a confined space, or they're being crammed into pots, vessels cookware any type of holding vestibule, it can become an incendiary device and that is a bomb in your hand," says Agent Brian Besser of the Rockford DEA.

Investigators say the hash oil made in Machesney Park was intended for personal use. Three people were arrested and charged with misdemeanors. The DEA says that's often the case. And it's typically made by novices who don't realize butane is heavier than oxygen, and sinks lower to the ground.

In January, an entire wing of a hotel in San Diego exploded, when one of the guys "cooking" attempted to light a cigarette.

"You have people who don't have chemistry backgrounds or scientific backgrounds, not that they're needed, but they're not familiar with the safety precautions that are required for the handling of chemicals," says Agent Besser.

Just like meth labs, people making hash oil are often high or drunk. One of the biggest differences though, it doesn't take a lot of ingredients and it doesn't smell, making it much more difficult to detect.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says hash oil explosions have become such a problem, it's directed all first responders to become trained on how to identify these types of explosions. Winnebago County has not yet received special training. The most cases are being reported out west, where marijuana laws are much more lax.

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