Okay, kids. Stay in school, don't do drugs, don't blow up your house, but make moonshine

A number of people warned of unintended consequences when states such as Colorado legalized the casual use, growing and possession of marijuana. There was talk of increased crime, rising unemployment and stoned hippies rolling around the streets of Denver looking for some spare change. But there was one thing nobody warned us about. (Emphasis added.)

When Colorado legalized marijuana two years ago, nobody was quite ready for the problem of exploding houses.

But that is exactly what firefighters, courts and lawmakers across the state are confronting these days: amateur marijuana alchemists who are turning their kitchens and basements into “Breaking Bad”-style laboratories, using flammable chemicals to extract potent drops of a marijuana concentrate commonly called hash oil, and sometimes accidentally blowing up their homes and lighting themselves on fire in the process.

With this comes a new raft of legal questions. It was fairly basic when you were thinking of stoners being able to go to the new Joints-R-Us store (by the way… I’m trademarking that right now) to pick up some weed, go home and smoke it. It’s another question when some of them decide to break out their Bill Nye “I Wanna Be A Chemist” kit and start cooking up the goods.

Even as cities try to clamp down on homemade hash oil and lawmakers consider outlawing it, some enthusiasts argue for their right to make it safely without butane, and criminal defense lawyers say the practice can no longer be considered a crime under the 2012 constitutional amendment that made marijuana legal to grow, smoke, process and sell.

Home chemistry carries all sorts of risks for those without the proper education, training and equipment. As a much younger man, I married a woman who may or may not have had a copy of a book which may or may not have aroused the suspicions of law enforcement officials if they saw you with it.


Some of the stories included with the “recipes” were shocking and made me wonder how any of the hippies ever lived to make it out of the sixties. There were plans for making LSD which could apparently burn down your apartment with you in it. (There were also schemes to make highly destructive devices which seemed far more likely to kill the “chemist” attempting them than any intended target.) So I wasn’t terribly surprised to learn from this article that people were attempting things with pot (of which I’d never even heard) which were blowing up their homes.

But this new frontier of legalization raises another question in my mind. There is apparently a legal battle looming over whether or not these permissive new laws will allow the rank and file citizen to create “hash oil” and other concoctions which may destroy small city blocks when they go awry. Fair enough. But if that is now permissible, how is it that we can’t have our own stills in our back yards to make alcohol?

Let’s face it.. the danger of blowing up your still is real if you put it under cover in an unventilated area or allow the fumes too near open flames. But if you’re stupid enough to do that, one might argue that you had it coming. Alcohol has been legal in most places since the 21st Amendment was passed in 1933. It’s still prohibited to distill your own shine. But the moment we legalize pot people can start making hash oil? We’ve long known that the bootlegging laws have almost nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with making sure Uncle Sam collects his sin taxes. If we’re going to venture into this brave new world of marijuana we deserve a fresh look at the bootlegging laws.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022