Proving that trying to extract high concentrations of THC from marijuana plants can be just as destructive as tweakers running meth labs, a man in Malibu blew up a rental home this week.
The house at 1170 Encinal Canyon Road was no shack – it sat on 34 acres and was worth about $600,000.
It exploded Tuesday, L.A. County sheriff's deputies said, after a man running a honey oil lab flipped a light switch. Boom! Static electricity ignited butane vapors. It was the second wax-extraction operation to blow up in the county this week and the seventh this year:
Honey oil – also known as wax and butane hash oil – is made by pumping lighter fluid through marijuana with, say, a brake bleeder and a mason jar. The idea? A high that is both more intense and lasts longer.
But such pleasures come with real peril: The man was taken by helicopter to a local hospital, where he remains in critical condition, L.A. County Sheriff's Detective Scott Schulze says.
“The place was destroyed,” Schulze says.
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The suspect, a 25-year-old man who sheriff's deputies are not naming, faces drug manufacturing charges for trying to concoct what High Times calls “a quantum leap forward in stoner evolution.” Authorities found about 700 butane canisters on the Malibu property.
“They're basically making pipe bombs,” explains L.A. County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Glenn Walsh. “The butane vapors will fill the air, and then someone will light a cigarette or joint. Water heaters and something as small as static electricity can cause the explosions.”
Another honey oil lab caught fire Tuesday in a Huntington Park apartment building, Schulze says. No one was injured in the smaller blast, and the suspected wax cook remains at large.
Last month, a house-turned-lab in Commerce was blown off its foundation. Two people were hospitalized.
“More people are learning to do this on the internet, so we're seeing more explosions,” Schulze said. “Making the oil is incredibly dangerous.”
He advises Angelenos to call authorities if they smell a strong blend of weed and lighter fluid emanating from a neighbor's home.