Butane Hash Oil (BHO): An explosive threat to officers

If officers don't take the right steps to ensure their personal safety on scene of a BHO lab, they can find themselves the next victims in a BHO explosion


Over the past few years, use and manufacturing of Butane Hash Oil (BHO) has skyrocketed. This poses a significant threat to street officers and narcotics officers who are the first to respond to these explosions. If officers don’t take the right steps to ensure their personal safety on scene of a BHO lab, they can find themselves the next victims in a BHO explosion.

The reason for the explosion in BHO use is because of the high level of THC in BHO. THC, short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the substance in marijuana that causes a user to get high.

Marijuana has been hovering around 20 percent-25 percent THC for a few years now, depending on where the marijuana is coming from. But BHO — depending on who is manufacturing it — has been bound to be 75 percent to 90 percent THC. With such high THC levels, many users are reporting that they are experiencing a psychedelic effect while under the influence. So now that we know why they are using it, let's look at how it impacts society.

Explosions and Death
To manufacture BHO, users typically take a tube, fill it with marijuana and then fill the tube with butane. The butane strips the Trichomes (THC) from the plant and the butane boils off at room temperature. After the butane boils off, a sticky yellow residue is left behind. This is the BHO.

The problem, of course, is that butane is highly flammable. As butane is put into the tube, it leaks into the atmosphere and then soaks into surrounding objects such as the cloth on a couch or the clothing of the people in the vicinity.

At 806 degrees, butane will ignite. This can come from a refrigerator motor, static electricity, or a TASER or gunfire — you can easily see where the threat to law enforcement can come from. If the butane ignites, an explosion can occur and fire can engulf people nearby.

How to Protect Yourself
The first step in protecting yourself is to become aware of the BHO threat. If you find yourself in a structure that has been used to manufacture BHO, you need to leave immediately. Some forms of butane have a smell added to them so that you can detect that there has been a leak. However, not all brands of butane do this. In fact, most BHO manufacturers don’t want the butane that has the chemicals added to it to make that smell. They feel that it will harm them when they smoke their BHO.

Once you are out of the structure, call your local HazMat crew. They have a gas detector and can check the atmosphere to determine if it is volatile or not. If it is volatile, the fire department can ventilate the structure so that it is safe for you to continue with your investigation. If HazMat does not detect butane in the air, then you can continue your investigation with confidence knowing that you are safe.

What happens if you respond to a BHO lab that has already ignited? Once on scene, secure the area. Usually the butane is burned off during the initial explosion. After you ensure that the scene is secure from outstanding suspects, give aid to burn victims. When the fire department arrives, get with the battalion chief and ensure that firefighters keep in mind the threats from the BHO lab. Also remind them that this is a crime scene.

When the fire is out, your job is just starting. Work jointly with an arson investigator. Keep in mind if you have a death as a result of this incident, you will need to investigate the crime as a homicide. Many states allow for the prosecution on drug manufacturing charges for persons involved in the manufacture of BHO.

BHO labs will become more and more common throughout the United States. BHO Lab seizures have been increasing every year with no signs of abatement. With individual states legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana, we can expect BHO labs to become more prevalent. With this increase comes an increase in the threat to our officers’ security and safety.

The best way to keep our officers safe from a BHO explosion is to increase our knowledge and training. Keep this information in mind the next time you come across an incident involving the manufacturing of BHO.

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