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Death in a Cannabis Lab: Italian Prosecutors Investigate Explosion

Two people were killed and two other victims of an industrial accident in Perugia (Italy) are being prosecuted by the authorities. The incident occurred when a “laboratory,” which was set up to create “Cannabis Lite” from high THC cannabis, exploded.

Beyond the strange specifics, this kind of incident is certainly an anomaly in Europe—and not just because of the existence of cannabinoids in this process, but also what the manufacturers were trying to do to it. This is not to mention the how.

This case is a typical example of Colorado circa 2014. In the first summer of state legalization, the Denver Department of Environmental Health ordered a recall from a manufacturer who had made hash in their washing machine to be sold commercially and “legally.” Thankfully, nobody died, and the owners displayed an ignorance that what they were doing was against public health guidelines.

BHO extractions, beyond this unfortunate incident, are a rising threat in the U.S. States where recreational cannabis has been legalized. Inexperienced operators are using butane to make hash oil—and horrific accidents and explosions are on the rise.

It seems that this case is a bizarre copycat. What makes this even stranger is the supposed intent of the “manufacturer.”

Italy: Criminal liability and intent

Prosecutors are trying to decide how to indict both owners and managers of this business. They will face charges for gross negligence, or failing to warn employees of the potential dangers, as a minimum.

The possibility exists that they could face charges for manslaughter and murder.

Let’s find out why. Ultrasonic “washing machines” had been set up to bathe cannabis in pentane to lower the level of THC in the same and thus enable the company to sell the products as “Cannabis Lite.” Further, as described by prosecutors, the method had been both “invented” by one of the partners in the business and further was “devoid of any technical and scientific knowledge and used outside of any authorization.”

Even online, ultrasonic washing machines can be purchased commercially. These machines can be used with water, or any other non-flammable solvent to clean jewellery, electronic devices, and medical instruments. You can use them to wash clothes, removing bacteria and preventing contamination.

It is not recommended that this process be used for cannabis intended for human consumption.

You should not fill their tanks with any liquid that’s flammable. It will cause explosions and fire or release dangerous gases into your workspace.

This solvent, pentane is commonly used for the manufacture of polystyrene. This solvent is extremely flammable.

For this reason, according to the prosecutor’s office, beyond the danger posed by the “innovation,” the processing was objectively dangerous.

Furthermore, the pentane had not been stored according to regulations nor was there any equipment in the laboratory that could have reduced the potential risks associated with the solvent’s processing.

The Oddest Circumstances

There are several bizarre aspects to this story—starting with this one: Who would take high THC cannabis and subject it to a chemical solvent and a “cleaning” machine clearly not designed for plants that will be ingested by humans? What about high THC marijuana? Is it really necessary when the supply is plentiful in this country.

Beyond these facts, it is clear that this was not an “invention” as much as an accident waiting to happen.

The tragic event in Italy serves as a cautionary tale to anyone else who may be attracted to similar innovations in the future. With multi-stage recreational legislation, there is almost certainty that more will follow until both the supply chain and manufacturing process for marijuana flowers are properly regulated.