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Police in California call for butane restrictions

Law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles, California, are calling for restrictions to be placed on the sale of butane to curb the spread of a highly potent form of marijuana known as butane honey oil. Individuals are required to show identification before purchasing products like aerosol cans of paint and cough medicine that are able to be used for illegal purposes, and police want to see butane added to that list.

Police say that drug traffickers often purchase dozens of cases of butane at a time and use it to convert marijuana into BHO. The delicate conversion process is highly volatile, and it generally takes place in facilities located in densely populated areas run by individuals lacking in training and expertise. The special unit of the Los Angeles Police Department tasked with investigating BHO laboratories conducted less than one raid per month in 2013, but raids became a weekly occurrence in 2015.

BHO is popular as its high potency makes it attractive to longtime cannabis smokers who have built up a significant tolerance for the drug, and consuming BHO does not produce the distinctive aroma of burning marijuana. However, production of BHO has been linked with 17 catastrophic injuries across Southern California since late 2014.

The evidence in drug possession and distribution cases often seems compelling, but narcotics or other items gathered during police searches may be excluded if the search was constitutionally defective. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may scrutinize search warrant applications and police reports thoroughly, and they could seek to have the charges against their clients reduced or dismissed when mistakes appear to have been made or shortcuts seem to have been taken.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, "A hazardous new high: 'butane honey oil'", Staff report, Feb. 23, 2016

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