It's called marijuana wax, among other things on the street, and authorities are blaming this increasingly popular and highly concentrated form of the drug for the fiery death of a great-grandmother in St. Cloud and nonfatal overdoses in Duluth.
State law enforcement officials and the police chiefs of St. Cloud and Duluth gathered Wednesday morning to alert the public about what the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) is calling "the emergence" of this dangerous trend among drug abusers.
What addicts are craving is the high concentration of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, that is found in the wax. This oily substance gives users a more intense physical and psychological high.
The process of extracting the wax calls for butane, a highly flammable accelerant, and a cylinder.
Simply put ground-up marijuana in the cylinder, soak it with butane and add a flame to eke out a liquid that is several times more potent than marijuana in leaf form. It goes by such names as butane hash oil, honey oil, butter oil, dab and 710 (spells out "oil" on a cellphone turned upside-down).
Fires, explosions, death and injuries have been reported across the country from this recipe.
Police in St. Cloud say a house fire in late November that claimed the life of an 85-year-old resident is tied to marijuana wax production, and her grandson bears much of the blame.
"There are so many dangers that surround the manufacture of hash oil," said Blair Anderson, St. Cloud's police chief, using one of the alternate terms for marijuana wax. "The behavior around it destroys lives. I've never seen anything like this. Clearly, it is proliferating … It is everywhere. It doesn't matter how small or how big your city is."
Asked whether he's concerned about the legalization door being cracked open in Minnesota with the approval of marijuana for medical purposes, Anderson said, "hell yes, I'm deeply concerned about it. But … it's the law. We'll deal with whatever issues come up."
Dustin R. Zablocki, 18, of St. Cloud, and Justin E. Pick, 19, of nearby Sartell, were charged Wednesday in Stearns County District Court with aiding and abetting third-degree murder.
Sally A. Douglas died Dec. 8 at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis from the smoke she inhaled during the Nov. 22 explosion and fire at her home in the 1900 block of 1st Avenue N., the medical examiner's office determined.
According to the charges, Zablocki and Pick were making dab in the basement on a hot plate, when the fire broke out. Neither called 911 after fleeing nor checked to see whether anyone else was home.
Zablocki was speaking to a police officer as his grandmother — found facedown near the front door — was brought outside wrapped in a blanket. The grandson fell to his knees crying in anguish.
"I just killed my grandma," he said to the officer.
Douglas' life in central Minnesota included operating a bait shop, waiting tables and filling orders at a small-town department general merchandise store. She left behind four children, 13 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. Two more great-grandchildren were on the way at the time of the lifelong Minnesotan's death.