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Originally published January 2, 2014 at 5:52 PM | Page modified January 3, 2014 at 4:37 PM

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Kirkland apartment fire linked to making hash oil; 2 injured

Two Kirkland apartments were severely damaged when two men trying to make hash oil from marijuana caused an explosion. The roommates were hospitalized with minor to moderate burns.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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Two Kirkland men trying to make hash oil from marijuana caused an explosion Wednesday night that severely damaged two apartments, according to Kirkland police.

Police said Thursday that Robby W. Meiser, 45, and his roommate, Bruce W. Mark, 62, were using butane to convert marijuana to hash oil in their second-floor apartment at 7216 N.E. 142nd St. when the explosion occurred around 9 p.m.

Meiser and Mark suffered minor to moderate burns on their upper bodies and were transported to Harborview Medical Center, police said.

The blast ignited a fire that one of the occupants put out with a fire extinguisher. The explosion caused an estimated $100,000 in damage to their apartment and one below it, police said, and both were condemned by the city’s fire inspector.

The most popular way of making hash oil — a high-potency extract — now involves flammable solvents, particularly butane, which can be bought in hardware stores.

Usually a glass or steel canister is stuffed with dried pot. The canister is then flooded with a solvent such as butane, which strips away the psychotropic plant oils.

The resulting golden-brown goo is then purged of the solvent. Common methods include boiling it off in a hot-water bath.

The danger comes mainly in improper ventilation. Butane is heavier than air and tends to sink and puddle in a closed room. Sparks can cause fires and explosions.

“That is exactly what happened,” said Lt. Mike Murray of the Kirkland Police Department.

Hash-oil explosions have been reported in recent months in Chicago, San Francisco, Colorado and more locally, in Mount Vernon.

Murray said Meiser is a designated provider of medical marijuana for several patients and had about 40 plants growing in his apartment.

Because some medical patients prefer to use concentrated-marijuana extracts in oils, tinctures and food, Murray said the manufacturing of hash oil for such purposes appears to be allowed.

But because the extraction was done in a residential area without proper ventilation, Murray said a charge of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, could be sought.

He said the case is still under investigation and will be turned over to the city attorney for potential prosecution.

Under the state’s new, regulated recreational-pot system created by Initiative 502, such an incident couldn’t occur, according to state officials.

No recreational businesses have been licensed yet. But when they are, no licensed business can be in residences.

Also, state rules don’t allow crude equipment and set certain safety standards for extraction, including closed-loop systems that keep flammable gases from escaping.

“I fervently hope that once I-502 marijuana-processing licenses are issued and processing is able to be legally done in commercial areas that we will see an end to people trying to do this kind of thing in private homes, which is very dangerous not only to them, but to neighbors,” said Kirkland City Councilmember Toby Nixon.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

On Twitter: @pot reporter



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