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Marijuana enthusiasts are blowing themselves up

Jeff Vinnick / Getty Images News

Marijuana enthusiasts, you shouldn't try this at home.

An increasing number of homemade hash oil operations are ending up in flames following the legalization of retail marijuana sales in Colorado, The Associated Press reports.

Firefighters in the state have already responded to at least 31 butane hash oil explosions in 2014, compared to just 11 last year, according to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. (It's worth noting the agency only recently began tracking the incidents, and the list is admittedly not comprehensive since it only includes reported and confirmed cases.)

Hash oil is a highly concentrated form of marijuana that can produce a potent high with just a few drops. It's made by using a solvent, such as the highly flammable butane, to isolate the oil from marijuana plants. The oil is then cleansed, typically by evaporating the butane on a stove or a coffee warmer.

Explosions usually occur during the cleansing process, when the butane is most likely to get exposed to poor ventilation and fires from, say, a stove. These explosions can culminate in brief, small flashes, but they can sometimes get pretty bad, resulting in serious burns, house fires, and even blown-out windows and walls.

The incentive for many of these home cooks is price: it's usually cheaper to make the hash oil at home than it is to buy it at a store.

But the lower price comes with a serious risk of burns and damage to a home. So it's possible that, as these explosions become more common and well-known, amateur home cooks will decide the risks aren't worth it.

Home-growing laws can perpetuate the problem as well. Unlike Washington, Colorado lets households grow up to six marijuana plants. Home cooks can then use these homegrown plants to produce their own hash oil, which means the seed-to-oil process can occur exclusively in a house or apartment.

But, just like marijuana use, prohibition doesn't necessarily stop people from making homemade hash oil: AP found at least eight explosions in Denver, where home cooking is banned.

This isn't the first time hash oil explosions made the news this year. Last year, WIRED reported a warning from the US Fire Administration about an increase in hash oil explosions around the country. (The warning, however, seems to have been taken down since then.)

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