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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Marijuana Honey Oil Burns Down Insured's House

Can a medical marijuana card-holding insured homeowner collect on an insurance policy when his house blows-up and burns down due to a mistake he made while cooking-up a batch of marijuana honey oil?  According to U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington, sitting in Bay City, the answer is, "No!"

In a recent case decided by Judge Ludington, a Bay City homeowner was making a batch of what has come to be known as marijuana honey oil.  Honey oil is a marijuana derivative that concentrates THC -the active ingredient in a marijuana leaf- into a wax or oil; smoking or ingesting the substance produces an enhanced "high".

To get to the wax, however, requires an intensive production process.  Marijuana leaves [er, much more than are allowed under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act] are crammed into a pvc tube capped on one end.  Then butane, and lots of it, is infused into the tube; essentially, the leaves are marinated in butane.

This marination process causes the plant matter to waste away, leaving a liquid mixture of butane and THC which is then strained through a filter.  The residue collected in the filter is then scrapped off and spread over a plate or other drying surface where the butane is allowed to evaporate.  What remains is a highly potent wax or oil that can be smoked or used in cooking.

Why go through this process?  Because medical marijuana in its most common leaf form fetches only between $10 and $20 per gram.  The oil, on the other hand, goes for up to $80 per gram.

The possibility of higher profit apparently lured the insured homeowner in the Bay City case to cook-up a double batch; this required copious amounts of butane.  Anxious to sample his product, he was cleaning a razor with a hand-held torch when butane fumes that had collected throughout the basement during the production process ignited, burning down the house.

Although the homeowner's insurance company paid-out to the tune of six figures, it did so under a "reservation of rights".  In the ensuring litigation, the federal judge ruled that what happened in the home was no accident; the homeowner was engaged in intentional acts that created predictable risks.

The case is illustrative of the lingering disconnect that the recent marijuana laws have created due to marijuana still being classified as a Schedule 1 drug via the federal Controlled Substance Act.  Insurance companies are going to begin to deploy express exclusions; landlords are going to prohibit marijuana production; and banks will not get involved in financing the marijuana production process.

Thus, for the foreseeable future, marijuana will continue to be produced the old-fashioned way; via the hippie farmer, one plant at a time.  Industrial production will require a re-alignment of the federal laws.

We here at the Law Blogger are reminded of the lyrics and title of a song by the Rastafarian legend Peter Tosh:  "Legalize it, Mon."

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