Landlords, tenants and homeowners have an unexpected new worry: legalized marijuana.
Already, marijuana use is an issue for D.C. landlords under decriminalization. One owner of 350 rentals in the city is about to add a no-smoking clause to his lease. He has always advertised his properties as non-smoking. But he is getting an increasing number of complaints from tenants in his buildings about the pungent odor from dope-smoking.
The latest trend in the marijuana subculture is the smoking of “dabs” of marijuana concentrate. This highly concentrated form of marijuana is expensive but growing in popularity for recreational use. And it’s explosive — literally.
Because of the expense of buying marijuana concentrate at a dispensary or pot shop, marijuana users are following Internet instructions to manufacture the most potent, concentrated form of the drug, known as BHO (butane hash oil or butane honey oil), at home. Besides dabs, street names for the drug also include 710, wax, honey oil and shatter.
Colorado saw 32 home explosions in 2014, up from 11 in 2013, triggered by attempts to make BHO. Butane is a highly volatile solvent and a flammable gas at room temperature. When cooling, or without proper ventilation, it can easily explode with a ball of fire, blowing out windows, causing property damage and putting neighbors at risk. This is particularly of concern to multilevel housing units such as motels, condominiums and apartments.
Because a large number of D.C. residents live in multi-unit housing, we must take note.
According to an Oregon newspaper report last May, fires and explosions from BHO production sent 17 people to a Portland burn unit in 16 months. The explosions caused numerous injuries, extensive property damage and at least one death in Oregon.
A horrific BHO explosion occurred in November 2013 in Bellevue, Wash. All 10 units of an apartment building were destroyed, and residents jumped from second- and third-story windows. The explosion and fire caused $1.5 million in damage to the building and the loss of $150,000 in belongings. Seven people were hospitalized. A former town mayor, an elderly woman who lived in the building, died from a pelvic injury sustained trying to escape the fire. Several weeks before this incident, police were called to investigate suspected BHO activity. Two men suspected of making BHO denied it.
On Oct. 31, a multi-unit apartment building in Walnut Creek, Calif., went up in flames because of BHO. One explosion near Sacramento displaced 140 people. The Sacramento Bee reported that Shriners Hospitals for Children-Northern California treated 68 victims for BHO burns in a three-year period. The average child was burned on 28 percent of the body.
There is no sign the spate of explosions in these Western states will end anytime soon.
In California, law enforcement unsuccessfully tried to get marijuana concentrates banned. Once marijuana advocates get what they want, it will be very difficult to stop marijuana in any form, including the “bomb,” BHO.
The recently passed D.C. Initiative 71, which would allow personal possession, did not outlaw, fine or hold accountable amateur hash oil manufacturing in a residential setting. Retail sales of marijuana in the District would bring a rash of explosions.
Landlords, homeowners and tenants who want to protect their lives, property and fortunes need to rally against any law that will allow the commercialization of marijuana in our nation’s capital. We in the suburbs are not immune, as marijuana use will skyrocket in Virginia and Maryland if the D.C. Council legitimizes head shops, pot shops and hash oil manufacturers and growers.
The writer is a Northern Virginia landlord and blogger.