The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Making a hash of it: explosion rocks trailer park

Police seize 19 marijuana plants but no charges filed after blast investigation


Extracting oil from marijuana to make hash is legal in Alaska but can be very dangerous.

Just ask Valdez man Richard Ayotte.

Valdez police say the department seized 19 marijuana plants from Ayotte’s mobile home at Aleutian Village after an investigation prompted by an explosion exposed a second problem: under current Alaska law, it is only legal to possess up to six marijuana plants – and only three may be mature, flowing and producing actual marijuana buds.

“City of Valdez Fire and Police Departments responded Wednesday to an explosion in the Aleutian Village Trailer Court,” a press release issued by the City of Valdez said. “At approximately 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, City Fire and Police Dispatch received a report of an explosion and smoke coming from a trailer home at Lot 34 of Aleutian Village.”

The city says there was no active fire found when emergency responders arrived at the scene.

“Firefighters observed flash damage to the home’s bathroom as well as heat damage underneath the trailer,” the city said. “Debris from the bathroom’s window was also found in an adjacent vacant lot. Fire Department personnel secured the home’s propane tank as a safety precaution.”

No injuries were reported and there was no damage to neighboring properties.

It could have been a lot worse.

The method of extraction Ayotte allegedly used – butane – is highly explosive.

According to the publication Marijuana Magazine, the process of extracting oil from marijuana to make hash can be a killer experience. Literally.

According to a news article published in the magazine in September of 2014 titled “Hash oil explosions,” several people have died making hash when their operations exploded.

“During the process, even a single spark can set off an explosion. Butane, which is heavier than air, can flow out of leaky containers and pool invisibly, awaiting the lighting of a cigarette, joint or bong,” the article said. “It can also travel unseen along surfaces until it reaches a source of ignition and explodes. Because butane displaces oxygen, it can even cause asphyxia if it fills up a room.”

Valdez police allege Ayotte “utilized a hot water bath to evaporate the butane fuel from the mixture.”

Ayotte has not commented to the Valdez Star regarding the incident.

“The Palmer District Attorney directed police seize the plants and retain them at the Police Department until further notice,” the city said last week. “No arrests have been made in the case as of Friday morning.”


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