COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A drug-making tool tied to an apparent explosion in Colorado Springs Wednesday is becoming more common according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The fear of an explosion closed Mount View Lane near Nevada Ave. for several hours. Before police arrived, two people were hurt in an apparent explosion. They were to the hospital with severe burns. Bomb squad investigators were also called out to Sandalwood Drive as well Wednesday but no one was hurt in that incident.
Police said what they thought may have been a pipe bomb in both cases was actually a THC extractor, a tool used to increase the potency of marijuana.
A manager at a pot supply shop said he's seen an increase in extractor sales since the recreational use of marijuana was passed by voters last November.
Matthew Barden, the Agent In Charge of the local Drug Enforcement Administration Office, said they've seen the device during some drug busts dating back to 2011.
"This could be happening a lot more than we would ever know, but it is very common when we do interact with a group that is distributing marijuana," said Barden.
According to Barden, just like with meth labs, experimentation can lead to serious injuries and property damage. A woman who one victim on Mount View went to for help said he had deep burns on his back and his thumb was nearly torn off.
"I thought it was from a fight but he tells me it was a butane lighter that blew up in his face," said Shelby Galiano.
Butane is commonly used in THC extractors. A container is filled with dried out marijuana leaves then butane is added. The plant and gas mix to draw out the THC and form an oil that can be an extremely potent version of marijuana that some call hash.
One undercover police officer was quoted in an Austin newspaper called it "butane honey oil." Others call the new substance earwax.
This past March, a butane explosion at an apartment complex in Austin caused $85,000 in damage. It also sent two people to the hospital with burns.
Barden said he's concerned about the increase in THC extractor activity because many of the people trying it are learning how to do it through the Internet.
"Anytime you have inexperienced people trying to figure out how to use volatile chemicals and they are not versed or have an education backing that up, you're going to have accidents," said Barden.