City restricts butane sales

Fuel is used in dangerous process to create cannabis concentrate

Citing the flammable dangers of using butane to make cannabis concentrate, the City of Hollister on June 18 approved an “urgency ordinance” to control the sale of the fuel.

Butane can be used to extract THC from the cannabis plant, resulting in a potent concentrate often referred to as butane honey oil (BHO), according to a press release from the Hollister Police Department. THC is a psychoactive chemical found in marijuana.

This extraction method has become increasingly common throughout California since the legalization of cannabis in the state.

Although BHO is produced legally in regulated commercial settings, people continue to attempt the process in their own residences and vehicles, a press release from Hollister PD explains. The refined butane used in these illegal, homegrown labs is colorless, odorless and heavier than oxygen. This process allows the butane to mix directly into the surrounding environment, where it turns the makeshift lab into a bomb waiting for an ignition source. A spark from static electricity is enough to ignite the gas; a single 300 ml canister of butane can fill a 1,452-square-foot home with enough gas to explode.

Since 2011, in California there have been more than 140 injuries and 41 deaths as a result of BHO lab explosions and fires. This includes an incident in Hollister in May 2017, in which an explosion at an illegal BHO lab resulted in a person being airlifted to a trauma center with burn injuries.

Police have discovered two illegal BHO labs in Hollister this year.

The ordinance enacted by the City Council June 18 limits but does not prohibit the sale and possession of butane, the police press release says. The ordinance restricts the amount of butane that businesses can sell, requires them to track their butane sales and restricts the amount of butane an individual can possess to 600 ml.

The urgency ordinance was enacted to provide immediate protection for residents until a permanent ordinance is approved, police said.

Anyone with information about the illegal production of BHO or sales of butane can call Officer Chris Wells at the Hollister Police Department at 831-902-8733. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call the WeTip hotline at 800-78-CRIME. Information provided to WeTip may qualify for a reward.

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