Felony charges were filed Oct. 17 against three people related to an explosion in a home in Carr where a potent marijuana concentrate was being manufactured.
But anxious neighbors of the now uninhabitable house, who waited two months for arrest warrants to be issued for two of the suspects, say they’re worried the location of their community in rural northwest Weld County means the Aug. 11 explosion won’t be the last frightening event related to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.
“The state (voters) did a great injustice when it legalized this stuff without looking down the road at what the consequences would be,” Carr Community Church pastor Ken Gunter said. “They thought they would raise a lot of revenue from taxes but didn’t take into account the cost of fighting the criminal element and the health risks.”
Since 2000, patients suffering from at least one of eight specific medical conditions who have a physician’s referral have been able to consume marijuana and related products legally in Colorado. Last year, voters approved amendment 64, which allows adults 21 and over to possess an ounce or less of marijuana and grow up to six plants for personal use.
Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck filed felony child abuse, drug manufacturing and arson charges against Levi Allen and Clayton Smith, both 27. According to a news release from Buck’s office, the men were attempting to manufacture marijuana concentrate in a home owned by Lavonne Bessler, 53, when the process caused an explosion that blew out windows and lifted the roof from the home at 61613 Fourth St. in Carr.
Both men were treated at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley for serious burns. A 7-year-old boy who was in the home suffered burns to his head and feet.
Bessler was not home when the explosion occurred, but allowed the hash oil to be made there and so was charged with one felony count of manufacturing a controlled substance. She is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 20.
According to the DA’s office, the child told investigators that the men were making “oil that you use to smoke weed” when the explosion occurred.
According to the arrest affidavit, the boy told investigators he had witnessed the process several times and was able to recount the explosion in detail. The boy was supposed to have been in the living room watching television, but had gone into the kitchen for a drink of water.
Both Bessler and Smith are in the state medical marijuana patient registry, with Bessler listed as Smith’s provider, according to Weld County investigators. Under state law, medical marijuana patients can make their own products, including extractions such as hash oil. THC, the main intoxicant in marijuana, is highly concentrated in hash oil, which can be smoked or applied topically.
Bessler told deputies that she didn’t know why Allen and Smith did not complete the portion of the manufacturing “process that calls for ventilation out of doors.”
Investigators discovered 12 plants inside the ruined home, along with a variety of charred hash oil ingredients and paraphernalia. Several large plants were growing in a side yard, according to the affidavit.
The felony child abuse charges stem from the investigators’ conclusion that Smith and Allen had placed the boy in a life-threatening situation by manufacturing hash oil in his presence.
Carr resident Charlene Olson, who has been closely following the investigation, said she is relieved charges were filed.
“Weld County officials responded quickly when I tried to make contact with them and took our concerns seriously,” she said. “It takes time for justice to run its course and the DA needed to feel confident before proceeding.”
Still, she wishes there had been more communication to neighbors about the case, and said she has been following up with the Weld County sheriff, commissioners and planning commission about continuing problems on the property.
“I don’t expect daily patrols way out here,” Olson said. “And I realize we need to be alert and aware of what is going on around us. However, we also need to know that we are being protected and not put ourselves in danger or inadvertently impede an investigation.”