$9 Million Demand in Hash Oil Factory Explosion

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – A man who suffered severe burns in a hash oil factory claims in a $9 million lawsuit that the explosion and fire could have been prevented had one of its owners not been smoking the drug while his partner manufactured it.

Jacob Magley sued three people and 11 businesses on Wednesday, in Multnomah County Court.

Magley was one of two people who were burned in an explosion at Higher Level Concentrates in Astoria last October. The explosion and fire also damaged an adjoining marijuana dispensary.

Magley says he didn’t know about the dangers of the “open-ended” system Higher Level was using to extract hash oil, which involves putting marijuana into a tube and using liquefied petroleum gas as a solvent to extract it. The odorless vapors from the process “will escape and can quickly fill an enclosed area,” he says in the complaint.

It was the first such explosion in the state, according to The Daily Astorian newspaper in the seaside town.

Magley says the defendant business owners should have known how dangerous the process was and the risk of the explosion that engulfed him in flames and burned 22 percent of his body.

Several weeks after the explosion, the Astoria fire chief had not definitively concluded what touched off the explosion, but he told the Astorian that it probably “caused by an unknown ignition source in a butane-vapor rich environment.”

Oregon is one of the few states to legalize recreational marijuana, which became available in July 2015. Butane-extracted hash oil can be smoked with high-temperature torches.

Three people were inside the building when it exploded, Magley and the defendant owners William “Chris” West and Jason Alexander Oei. Magley and West were hospitalized in serious condition with burns. Oei was not injured.

Magley says in his lawsuit that Oei was “dabbing” — smoking hash oil — while West was extracting the hash oil, which set off the explosion. He seeks millions of dollars in damages from Oei and West, their business and other businesses, including the owners of the property and the companies that maintained it.

Not surprisingly, the explosion caused controversy in Astoria. Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis told the Astorian in November that he was awaiting complete results of an investigation to decide whether to file charges.

The Oregon Health Authority has designated a number of marijuana processers authorized to make hash oil. The risks of explosions led the Oregon Legislature to make unlicensed production of hash oil a Class B felony.

Marquis criticized the Health Authority and the Astoria Planning Commission after the explosion. “The butane hash oil extraction process … is really dangerous,” he told the Astorian. “There’s a way to do it safely, but it’s not” cheap.

The district attorney told the newspaper that if the state allows the dangerous process, it should inspect the businesses that do it at least as much as it inspects dairy farms.

Magley is represented by Gregory Zeuthen in Portland.

In May 2015, an Oregon man sued the importers and distributors of the butane he bought to make hash oil that caused an explosion in his garage. He also sued the Shell mini-mart where he bought the fuel. Kevin Tveisme suffered burns over half of his body, and was in a coma for six weeks. His friend died 18 days after the explosion.
Tveisme’s lawsuit for $11 million was dismissed this month.

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