As SW’s Matt Driscoll pointed out a few months back, the booming, cottage industry of hash oil production can be very, very dangerous. Not only could you blow your face off--or someone else’s--but you could find yourself charged with some serious criminal crimes.
And that’s exactly what happened to seven people whose charges were announced this morning in a press conference featuring a line-up of law enforcement heavyweights, including U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan.
Their ire was directed at a series of hash-oil explosions throughout the region, the most lethal of which killed Nan Campbell, an 87-year-old former mayor of Bellevue. She had the misfortune, back on November 5, of being in a Bellevue apartment complex where three people were allegedly cooking up a batch of hash oil. An explosion and fire ensued. Campbell broke her pelvis trying to escape, and ended up dying of complications from her hospitalization, according to documents released by Durkan’s office. Two other apartment residents broke bones as they jumped from upper-story windows to escape the flames.
David Schultz, 32, Daniel Strycharkske, 28, and Jesse Kaplan, 31, now stand charged in federal court with endangering human life while manufacturing controlled substances, maintaining a drug involved premises and manufacturing hash oil and marijuana. Four others are charged in connection with similar explosions in Seattle, Kirkland and Puyallup. Seattlites perhaps best remember the Mount Baker explosion that knocked a building off its foundation in January.
“Home-based manufacturing of THC remains illegal under state law, even with the passage of Initiative 502,” Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, who spoke at the press conference, pointed out. The initiative does allow hash oil production, but only at licensed facilities and not in homes.
Even so, pot legalization is getting the blame for a flurry of hash-oil explosions, both in this state and in Colorado. “The opening months of Colorado’s first-in-the-nation recreational marijuana industry have seen a rise in fiery explosions and injuries as pot users try to make the drug’s intoxicating oil in crude home-based laboratories,” reads a May AP story.
Since the feds weren’t crazy about legalization to begin with, it’s no surprise that they have it in for these kinds of reckless operations. “We will not stand by and allow this dangerous conduct to endanger the public,” Durkan declared.
Update: Later in the day, the U.S.Attorney’s office added a name to one of the indictments, bringing the number charged to eight.