A butane explosion in New Zealand burned a man trying to make illegal cannabis oil after he lit a cigarette. The man spent a month in the burn unit of a local hospital and the court let him off with community service. Would U.S. courts have been as lax?
Constable Matthew Crawford of Nelson police with the butane gas canisters commonly used by cannabis oil producers.
Blair Van Haaften had been using butane gas to cook cannabis oil in his grandparents’ caravan when he felt the need for nicotine.
So he lit up a cigarette and the caravan exploded.
Van Haaften escaped and ran into his parents’ house and into the shower where he ran cold water over his extensive burns.
Van Haaften appeared in the Nelson District Court on Monday for sentencing on a charge of attempting to manufacture cannabis oil.
The court heard that he had used butane gas to extract oil from cannabis leaf in the caravan parked at his parents’ house in Gladstone Rd, Richmond, on the morning of September 18 last year.
The oil was in a plastic container and Van Haaften was attempting to purify it further by heating it with a hair dryer, Judge Tony Zohrab said.
“You got a little bit carelesss, you lit a cigarette and what happened is that the butane particles, still heavy in the air … they exploded.”
Van Haaften was seriously burned all over his body and was flown to Lower Hutt Hospital where he stayed in the burns unit for about a month.
“In some ways he’s lucky to be alive,” defence lawyer Mark Dollimore said.
Police found 33 empty butane cans, cannabis stalks and seeds, as well as pipes for cannabis and methamphetamine at the scene of the explosion.
Dollimore said Van Haaften had perhaps been “too honest” with a probation officer by saying that he would continue to consume cannabis.
But he said he wouldn’t attempt to cook cannabis oil again.
Judge Zohrab said given there wasn’t a commercial element to the offending, it didn’t make sense to sentence Van Haaften to prison.
“You’ve suffered already as a result of this.”
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