CBS 5 Arizona
Nov. 3, 2016
Proposition 205 does more than just legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona.
One of the least-talked-about aspects is that it changes the law when it comes to a volatile type of drug lab surging in popularity.
These illegal labs are showing up in neighborhoods across the Valley.
According to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office, agencies across the Valley are busting about lab a week.
Opponents of Prop 205 say the law would lead to more explosions in neighborhoods.
Proponents say it will bring safety through regulation.
These “chemical extraction” labs use butane to strip the narcotic part of marijuana, THC, off the plant.
The product that is left over is a potent hash oil that gives users a longer-lasting, more intense high.
The use of butane makes these labs volatile.
The highly flammable gas is heavier than air and can pool.
Any ignition source, even static electricity, can lead to a fire and explosion.
On page 15, Prop 205 drops the penalty for chemical extraction labs from a class 2 felony, that can carry up to 12.5 years in prison, to a class 6 felony.
A Class 6 felony can be punishable by prison time but prosecutors say first-time offenses are often negotiated down to a misdemeanor and a fine.
“I think this is one of the worst initiatives to ever make it to the ballot in Arizona and I have been here for 20 years and that is just from a public policy perspective,” says Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who opposes Prop 205.
Montgomery says if you reduce the penalties, Arizona will see a surge in drug labs.
“A difference between a class 2 felony and class 6 felony, we are saying under criminal law we don’t think this is as dangerous or as serious and that flying the face of what reality is and what other states have seen, says Montgomery.
California and Colorado both recently increased their penalties for chemical extraction labs after seeing a dramatic increase in fires, explosions and injuries.
The Cannabis reported more than 30 explosions were linked to chemical extraction labs in Colorado in 2014.
The Sacramento Bee reported that Shriners Hospital in Northern California treated 68 children for burns from labs in three years.
Ryan Hurley with Rose Law Group is one of the attorneys who played a role in drafting Prop 205.
Backers say the law would lead to more regulation. Hurley says under Prop 205, people can pay $15,000 for a license to manufacture marijuana by chemical extraction.
Hurley says more regulating of the industry will lead to people operating a legitimate business and increasing safety.
He says people will be willing to pay the $15,000 for licenses to avoid penalties.
“I think if they are facing a potential year and a half in prison for doing this, I think it’s a reasonable fee that lots of people will do for the opportunity to be an entrepreneur in an entirely new market,” says Hurley.
Detective Matt Shay with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office H.I.D.T.A task force investigates “chemical extraction” labs. Shay says while there are large scale manufacturers of hash oil, many people use PVC pipes and other household items to make these labs.
His concern, take away the legal incentive not to make these labs and we will see the same surge seen in other states.
“They are going to be typically amateurs; not going to have the gear set up to protect them from fire or explosions,” says Shay.
Prop 205 also changes the law when it comes to prosecuting DUI’s and underage possession.