What’s wrong with just smoking some weed and getting high? Sure, it is illegal (unless you are medically certified) and can cause impaired judgement and reflexes, but it is fairly plentiful on the streets, and by some accounts, fairly harmless if done recreationally. For some users, however, just smoking a joint does not seem to be enough. Thus, the growth of the concentrated cannabis in the form of “hash oil”, otherwise known as honey oil, wax, nectar, dabs, and other names. It is the most potent form of cannabis, or marijuana, because of its high THC content. It is consumed in various ways, most typically vaporized in a specially designed water pipe known as a dab rig, which usually makes use of a blowtorch to aid in the process.
The process for making hash oil is extremely dangerous, however, and involves passing liquid butane through marijuana leaves to crystallize and extract the cannabis resins. The process continues to purify the resin for eventual use. Needless to say, using butane and other volatile solvents in a non-controlled environment creates the potential for explosions and fires, and hash oil production has resulted in the growth of related fires and accidents over the past few years. Redding police encountered just such an incident last Sunday morning.
According to a department press release, at 9:27 am, officers were sent to the Trellis Village apartments on Lawrence Road on reports of an explosion. When they arrived, they found 27-year-old Christopher Lawrence Hightower in front of the burning apartment, with his own body suffering from severe burns all over. Redding Fire was called to extinguish the flames, which had spread to several units in the complex.
Investigation revealed that Hightower had been running a honey oil lab in the apartment or garage. Fortunately he was alone in the unit – none of his family or children were present. According to a report from KRCR News, 10 apartment units were made uninhabitable by the blaze, and four were destroyed. It was extinguished by 11:30 am. No other injuries were initially reported, but Hightower was taken to Mercy Medical center, and then flown to an out-of-county burn center, and is listed in critical condition. KRCR quoted neighbors as saying that after the explosion, Hightower came running out screaming “Help me, help me, I’m on fire!” Some tried to help, but he had no active flames on him, just burn wounds. They also reported that he did not live in the apartment, but was staying with a friend who lives there. In the past, his residence was listed as Shingletown, a small community to the east of Redding at the foot of Mt. Lassen.
Chris Hightower shows all indications of a past with both problems and achievements. His record of arrests goes back to at least 2006 when he was charged with possession and transportation of marijuana or hashish for sale, followed by at least three more arrests in the following three years on drug, weapon, and parole violation charges. But he also graduated from Pioneer Continuation High School and the two-year Shasta College in 2010, according to his Facebook profile. He has sought and worked at various jobs, including as a tattoo artist. He also worked at the Redding Halloween City last October, and just last month was going for a lumberyard position.
However, recent posts from his Facebook page also show a very troubled man. On May 21, he wrote “Just like prison, this is all my fault. I always manage to put myself in situations that leave me out in the cold. God what a [deleted] up I’ve become. Everywhere I go there’s my inconvenient mess [deleted deleted] up for those around me. I apologize to everyone who has had to deal with my b.s. I dug this hole, it ain’t the first and it probably ain’t the last. So far everyone is better off when my obnoxious ass ain’t around, I don’t need glasses to see that. So I’m going to go ahead and stay out of everybody’s way. -Chris” A few days later he posted “My lady and my kids don’t love me anymore. What a monster I’ve become. Well actually…I was born bad. How can anyone love that?” In both cases, friends and family replied with messages of support.
Perhaps it was these troubles that led him to that friend’s apartment turned into a dangerous hash oil lab as a way to make money and find some measure of success. Once his current condition has stabilized, however, he will no doubt be faced with a new set of charges, such as manufacturing a controlled substance, reckless endangerment likely to cause great bodily injury, various felony parole violations, perhaps even arson. Meanwhile, for residents of the Trellis Village apartments, their troubles are just beginning as they sort out the damage to their homes and belongings, and some looking for a new place to live.
KRCR News: Firefighters battle apartment complex blaze in east Redding
KRCR News: Victims struggling after hash oil lab explosion
Wikipedia: Hash Oil