Back in January, National Public Radio did a piece on the emergence of hash oil, a resinous substance extracted from cannabis through a process involving flammable solvents such as butane. Now the Los Angeles Times has reported an escalating wave of fires and explosions related to the process.

The increase in use and availability has been linked to some of the same people who produce marijuana for medical use. That’s no doubt just a starting point. Home chemists will take up the banner as its popularity grows.

Hash oil usually appears in viscous form, but it can also be a solid. It sells between $40 and $80 a gram. It’s popular because it’s potent. The THC concentration can vary widely but can easily exceed 70%. Users often describe the drug as an hallucinogen, more along the lines of LSD than conventional marijuana.

You can smoke, vaporize it, or even eat it. The form we hear about in our area is ‘dabbing’. The oil, which is about the consistency and color of very dark honey, is dripped in small amounts onto a very hot surface such as a heated ceramic or quartz plate, then the smoke is taken in via a water pipe.

The Times reported some 20 explosions in the past year in the San Diego area alone. Colorado reported 31 to date, all related to the brewing of hash oil. Apparently it only requires a small spark. Accumulating fumes are an issue. Is this sounding familiar to viewers of Breaking Bad?

We don’t know much about hash oil as a drug of abuse or addiction, only that it seems to fit neatly into a poly-drug pattern of the type commonly seen in treatment centers. Its extra potency makes it attractive to someone looking to get high but tolerant to the effects of ordinary pot, or perhaps someone seeking to temporarily allay the effects of other drug withdrawal. And of course, there are always the college kids looking for a thrill and willing to take a risk to get it.

Its profitability will make hash oil an attractive product in the street drug market.