VANCOUVER, Wash. - Butane hash oil is fast becoming the drug of choice for marijuana users in the Northwest, police say.
The oil, also known as Butane Honey Oil or BHO, is made by stripping away THC - the chemical in marijuana that gets you high - from the marijuana plant.
Users then smoke the concentrated THC, which usually has an oil or wax-like texture.
Officer Mike Cooke, commander of the Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force, says the drug is up to five times as potent as smoking pot.
He's worried more pot smokers in Washington are using hash oil.
"It's becoming especially popular with marijuana users, especially the under-30 crowd," Cooke said. "Butane Honey Oil is the crack cocaine of marijuana."
How dangerous you feel smoking BHO is likely depends on how dangerous you find marijuana in general, but few would argue making BHO is not hazardous.
Making the drug involves using a chemical solvent (often butane) that gets mixed with the extracted THC.
The solvent then needs to be burned away, often with a blowtorch or kitchen stove.
The process has led to several explosions in the Northwest and around the country.
Cooke is worried there will be more.
"Our concern of course is for not only the person doing the process, but innocent people that might be around them, innocent children that might be in the home," Cooke said.
Thousands of amateurs
Searching YouTube for BHO with any of its popular street names - butter, dabbing, wax - reveals thousands of how-to videos, including step-by-step guides taking you from plant to oil.
Cooke says that, along with the legalization of marijuana in Washington, makes it too easy for kids to try their hand at cooking BHO.
"The butane hash oil process has become so normalized, you can now buy the equipment to do this process in retail stores in Clark County," Cooke said.
Cooke adds that one small slip-up is all it takes for would-be BHO makers to cause an explosion.
"(An explosion) bad enough to cause very severe injuries," Cooke said. "In a contained environment with the concussion of the explosion this latest one actually moved walls in the house and created a lot of damage and a lot of injury."
Cooke is referring to a Jan. 12 explosion in a Vancouver residence where police located evidence of possible drug manufacturing, including several cans of butane.
KATU has previously reported on explosions in Forest Grove, near Caitlin Gable and north of Seattle that police believe are linked to people trying to make hash oil.