When the DEA announced the commencement of “Operation Shattered” on July 22, 2014, the enforcement agency had eight people on its list to indict. The names on the list were cited for manufacturing a controlled substance out of their homes using open-blasting techniques to create butane hash oil (BHO).
Citing recent explosions from hash oil making operations in Washington, representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office made it clear they were going to go after those they found breaking the law:
“Manufacturing hash oil is illegal and poses a significant risk to families, neighbors, and the general public,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan announced in a statement released from the Department of Justice.
At 4:00 AM yesterday, the feds widened that net when King County Law Enforcement officers raided the home of Debbie Brechler and Josh Mauk, the owners of Home Blown Concentrates. While the company may be situated in the couples residence, the pair uses a closed loop system and does all of their blasting in an outdoor setting. These conditions should seemingly satisfy the requirements for safely manufacturing BHO.
But Washington law appears clear: “Home-based manufacturing of THC remains illegal under state law, even with the passage of Initiative 502,” according to Mark Lindquist, Pierce County Prosecutor, in the same DOJ release.
The charges brought against Brechler and Mauk include reckless endangerment. According to the warrant served, arrests were also made on suspicion of manufacturing of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm. While they acknowledge their child was in the home, the owners maintain their operations were conducted safely outside and in no way endangered their child.
There has been an immediate response on social media in support of Home Blown Concentrates. Some in the Washington Cannabis Community are calling for solidarity. Jonah Takoma, owner and founder of Dabstars commented on Home Blown’s Facebook page:
“Home Blown Concentrates founders Josh Mauk and Debbie Brechler were arrested by federal authorities today as part of what the DEA is calling ‘Operation Shattered,’ targeting extractors open looping out of their residencies and are actively pursuing our friends and family members in the community. In order for the hash making movement to survive in Washington we all have to adapt and evolve to safer standards and help each other stay out of the cross hairs, even if that means sharing space/equipment and resources.”
However, not everyone in the industry believes these raids to be off the mark. John Davis, for example, a dispensary owner and one of the organizers of Hempfest said, “Where people are acting completely outside the law and foolishly and dangerously, and endangering their communities, absolutely I think that enforcement has a role.”
Daniel de Sailles, owner of Top Shelf Extracts in Denver, Colorado and one of the industry’s most outspoken proponents of Butane Hash Oil had this to say:
“Our community has been doing our best to police ourselves. The idiots causing these explosions are not a part of it. Every single hash oil accident that has happened anywhere happened in a closed in space, the fault of people without even the most rudimentary common sense. I think ‘discharging a can of butane in a closed in space’ should be punishable by a severe prison sentence. These last people didn’t do that and are being made a scapegoat because they picked the unfortunate name “home blown concentrates.” They were in fact ethical caregivers that consistently provided clean concentrates (verified by multiple laboratories) to their patients (all legal under Washington law). I am sad to see Washington State put caregivers who never in their lives put anyone else’s in danger with evil selfish scum bags blowing up apartment buildings and hotels. They’re throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
According to a news release put out by The Northwest Leaf, the couple remains in police custody. Their child, though, in the home at the time of the raid, was allowed to stay with family members.
The Northwest Leaf further warns MMJ producers and processors in Washington to follow safe practices, suggesting that all processing be done in a commercial setting, “Processing in residential homes, especially where children are present is not advised or legal. All processors need to ensure safe and best practices, for the safety of patients and the industry.”