By Jenny Bloom
Washington Cannabis Connection
Two owners of a licensed Oregon marijuana business are facing serious charges after a 2016 explosion that gutted a building and left two men injured. The two are rumored to have caused the explosion by dabbing while making Butane Hash Oil.
William “Chris” West and Jason Oei are the owners of Higher Level Concentrates, a licensed marijuana concentrate processor under the parent company, Astoria Trading Co. West suffered injuries from the explosion, and their building was condemned.
A contractor on the premises, Jacob Magley, suffered serious injury as well. He is suing the owners as well as the property owner (another marijuana professional), and the company that sold the flammable gas used to make the butane hash oil.
Unlawful But Licensed
The owners of Higher Level Concentrates were a lawful business. Although the owners were arrested and indicted for “unlawfully and recklessly, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life,” they were properly licensed by the state of Oregon. The state charged each with a single count of second-degree assault – a Class B Felony that could result in 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.
The pair also faces charges of third-degree assault and four counts of reckless endangerment. These include a fine of up to $125,000 and $6,250 as well as anywhere from one to five years in jail.
Despite the nature of the case, Clatsop County District Attorney, Josh Marquis was quick to explain, “This is not a drug case. This is a case of reckless assault.”
For Commercial Use Only
Surprisingly, the two had been authorized by the Oregon Health Authority without an inspection of their business. However, Magley, a construction worker, pointed out in his civil suit, that the building lacked adequate ventilation, exit routes, automatic sprinklers and gas detectors.
Because the process of making BHO is so dangerous, Oregon previously passed laws that made it a felony to do so without regulation from the state. However, as a commercial marijuana business, they had proper approvals. According to Marquis, the case may be the first BHO-related indictment of a commercial marijuana business.
Criminal Charges Are Just Part of It
Dabbing in an improperly ventilated facility isn’t the only reckless activity the pair may have committed. Magley claims they also did not provide fire-retardant clothing or protective equipment while he was working. Emergency workers described Magley’s skin as falling off when they arrived at the scene. He is seeking $8.9 million in damages from the pair (and others).
Likely related, Higher Level Concentrates received $5,300 in fines for workplace safety violations from the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Higher Level Concentrates is out of business, and the two are still facing potential jail time. West and Oei have, however, since applied for a production and processing license for recreational marijuana. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is not processing their application until all investigations have completed.
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