THIS STORY WILL BE UPDATED AS IT DEVELOPS
May 18, 2020 – The explosion and fire at the “Smoke Tokes” facility in downtown Los Angeles, resulting in injuries to several firefighters, did not happen at a facility that contained cannabis, nor did it have any license for manufacturing or distributing cannabis products, according to a search at the CA Bureau of Cannabis Control and Department of Public Health. Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the state Bureau of Cannabis Control, confirmed to Forbes magazine on Monday that there was no state-licensed cannabis business at the address. “It seems like they are some sort of wholesale business,” he said. “Not plant touching.”
Smoke Tokes is a wholesale distributor that sells nicotine products, paraphernalia, and cans of butane, which can be used in cigarette lighters or to illegally manufacture cannabis oils. Several news outlets have reported that a similar fire happened in 2016 at a nearby business with the same name, where volatile solvents were found.
In September 2018, Gov. Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3122, which made it unlawful to sell bulk quantities of butane, except to licensed manufacturers. The state allows licensing of facilities that manufacture butane-extracted oils, which must pass fire inspections and pay upwards of $75,000 in licensing fees. However, no business in Los Angeles has received a license to do cannabis extraction with flammable gases such as butane, Rayna Plummer, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Cannabis Regulation told the Daily News.
The Los Angeles Fire Department has announced it will launch a citywide review of the way certain businesses store volatile materials in LA. Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said that every fire station in Los Angeles would work to identify businesses similar to Smoke Tokes that store volatile chemicals, ensuring they are stored properly. Those businesses are required to display a diamond placard, which would alert emergency personnel that there are potentially flammable and hazardous materials inside. Smoke Tokes did not have such a placard.
Smoke Tokes is not a cannabis business, and three law enforcement sources told the L.A. Times that neither an extraction laboratory setup nor cannabis was found inside the building. A criminal investigation into the blast will be focused on whether volatile or explosive substances were stored improperly, the sources said.
Erik Hultstrom, founder of Legacy Strains and a member of the Southern California Coalition, a cannabis trade organization, said the sale of such large quantities of butane had been going on in the area for well over 10 years and was fueled by the unlicensed marijuana trade.
“Until local governments allow the licensing of safely regulated cannabis businesses, and fees and taxes on legal cannabis businesses are brought down to reasonable levels, illegal cannabis operations will continue, and we will pay the unfortunate public safety and health consequences,” said Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of California NORML.