NTF dismantles butane hash oil extraction lab 15 times larger than lab that caused recent explosion
WARNER SPRINGS, Calif. – Yesterday the DEA’s Narcotic Task Force executed a state search warrant at 30570 Chihuahua Valley Road, Warner Springs, Calif. Agents uncovered a sophisticated butane hash oil extraction lab inside three trailers on the property. In addition to extracting hash oil, the lab operators were also refining the hash oil and packaging it into vape cartridges for consumption.
This lab was approximately 15 times larger than the BHO extraction lab that caused the recent explosion in the Mira Mesa area of San Diego that sent three people to the hospital with serious injuries.
“This was an unpermitted, black-market operation in violation of both federal and state laws,” said Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. “It posed a significant danger of fire and environmental contamination to the community of Warner Springs – a place where families live and wildlife thrives.”
Hash oil, also known as honey oil, is commonly extracted from marijuana plant material using butane. Butane is a colorless, highly flammable gas commonly used as lighter fuel for cooking and camping. Because the vapors from butane can linger dangerously and release explosive gas clouds, a mere spark of static electricity can ignite an entire room, let alone cause significant fire damage in rural fire-prone communities.
Warner Springs is a rural community in San Diego County that is prone to wildfires. The use of large quantities of butane in this extraction lab posed a significant threat to the community as fire season nears.
Agents also discovered marijuana plant material contaminated with butane buried on the property. By-products from the extraction process and hazardous chemicals were also found on the property. This type of toxic waste is an enormous environmental concern because of contamination to soil and the ground water supply.
As butane is introduced into marijuana plant material, it bonds with THC, and an oily substance is created. The butane then evaporates creating the end product which can be up to 90 percent more potent than traditional marijuana. Hash oil is often consumed in e-cigarettes and vaporizers, found in edible products like cookies, brownies and gummy candies, topicals/lotions, tinctures, capsules and patches.
Today, agents seized enough lab equipment to produce approximately 25 pounds of hash oil per cycle, with an estimated street value of $454,000 each cycle. Agents seized large quantities of hash oil, hundreds of pounds of processed marijuana, large quantities of butane, sophisticated laboratory equipment and hazardous chemicals. In addition, agents seized 14 firearms. The following four individuals were arrested:
Bradley Chase Gilmore, age 33
Maritza Gutierrez, age 30
Richard Villanueva, age 39
Elsie Fernandez, age 30
Due to the nature of this operation, NTF requested assistance from San Diego Sheriff and Escondido Police SWAT teams. San Diego County HAZMAT, San Diego City HAZMAT and the California Department of Forestry responded to assist with clean-up of this extensive laboratory operation.
If you are aware of an illegal BHO extraction laboratory in your neighborhood, please call DEA at (858) 616-4100.
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