Homer man arrested for making hash oil

Once the Alaska Marijuana Control Board’s draft regulations are approved and marijuana processing licenses can be issued, what Alaska State Troopers said Robert Carroll did when he allegedly made hash oil would be legal — but not until then.

Last month, troopers charged Carroll, 43, with third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, manufacturing with intent to sell hashish oil. Carroll also was charged with six counts of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance for possession of oxycodone, possession of more than 25 marijuana plants, possession of cocaine, possession of hash oil, maintaining a structure to manufacture drugs and possession of marijuana with intent to sell. He also was charged with second-degree weapons misconduct for possessing a firearm while engaged in drug trafficking. All are felonies.

A grand jury on Oct. 29 indicted him on all the charges except weapons misconduct, which was dismissed. Carroll was released on $3,500 bail on Oct. 29.

According to a criminal complaint filed by Investigator Levi Russell of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation, Carroll had set up a hash oil production facility in the garage of his Frontier Lane home off East End Road. Carroll was using the butane method of extracting hash oil from marijuana, Russell wrote. 

Under the citizens’ initiative legalizing the possession, cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana passed last year, and through regulations proposed by the Marijuana Control Board, it would be legal to extract hash oil and other compounds from marijuana. Hash oil extraction would be tightly regulated, with safety procedures such as having a closed-loop system, where gases would not escape, and keeping butane and other volatiles away from flames.

“Butane to extract hash oil is extremely dangerous due to its extreme flammability and the confined, airtight spaces where this activity occurs,” said Alaska State Trooper Capt. Jeff Laughlin in an email. “It does not take much of a source of ignition to ignite the butane and cause an explosion.”

Laughlin said troopers have had several other cases this year where they found hash extraction using butane. There have been two fires caused by making hash oil, one in December 2014 in North Pole and one in June in Valdez, he said.

According to Russell’s complaint, troopers first contacted Carroll about 2:10 p.m. Oct. 14 after receiving a “report every dangerous driver immediately” complaint near Mile 108 Sterling Highway in Soldotna. Carroll told troopers he had taken Tylenol 3 with codeine and had marijuana in his Toyota truck. Troopers found a pill bottle with Oxycodone and 29 plastic containers of about 10.5 grams of hash per container. Russell said Carroll told troopers he sold the hash for $20 a container. Troopers also found $3,478 in Carroll’s wallet. After being arrested for third- and fourth-degree drug misconduct, Carroll made bail.

On Oct. 19, the Soldotna based Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit served a warrant on Carroll’s home. Russell said he smelled a strong odor of marijuana in the garage and found a hash making operation, including butane cans and an air compressor. He wrote that he also found 23.4 grams of hash, a .380 semi-automatic Colt pistol and $1,278 on a dresser, and a dime of cocaine and $1,054 on Carroll’s person. In a separate building troopers found a marijuana grow operation with 36 plants not yet flowering and 36 flowering plants, for a total weight of 16 pounds with a processed weight of 2.67 pounds.

The proposed marijuana regulations would control manufacture of extracted cannabis oil like hash, said Cynthia Franklin, executive director of the Marijuana Control Board.

“When you do it correctly, it’s not any more dangerous than any pressurized system,” she said, such as cooling hockey rinks.

Cannabis oils also can be extracted using safer methods like the carbon dioxide extraction system. Once oils are extracted, they can be added to all sorts of products, such as candy, lozenges and drink products.

“Think of it like vanilla extract,” Franklin said.

Cannabis oils also can be made that have low contents of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the ingredient in marijuana that gives the plant its high. Cannabidiol, or CBD, oil made from cannabis, also can be made from hemp, a species of cannabis that has little or no THC. Some proponents of medical marijuana promote CBD as helpful in treating conditions like multiple sclerosis. 

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.