For the last several years there has been a nationwide push to legalize the recreational use of Marijuana in the United States. Recently, 17 states, have passed legislation for legal use, and only six States remain where it is illegal. The rest of the nation, is a hybrid of both medical and recreational. This new addition to the American pastime has created a whole new set of uncontrollable factors for members of the American fire service to train and plan for. As a result, Marijuana Grow Operations are opening up in the communities we serve, faster than first responders can plan, train and implement safe operating procedures when called to respond to these facilities.
Marijuana Grow Operations facilities to the naked eye seem relatively harmless. Most in the industry compare themselves to nothing more than a greenhouse or nursery. The reality of the situation is that when you respond to a facility that either is a Marijuana Grow or Hash Oil extraction lab, what you see from the outside, is not necessarily what you get on the inside.
Retail marijuana is a cash business. This means that any given time, there is potential for large sums of money and high yields of marijuana products on site which are a nice bounty to those who wish not make a purchase, but would rather steal. To combat this, Marijuana Grow owners are fortifying their facilities with ballistic walls and ceilings. Building walls where doors were used for ingress and egress, and installing “booby traps” to deter those who wish to bring a deficit in profit to owners. Floor plans are greatly altered into elaborate labyrinths that are intended to confuse and frustrate unwanted guests. These same maze like features will also inhibit interior fire attack plans, allowing for a decreased reflex time to the seat of the fire and putting firefighters lives and safety in peril.
Marijuana grows are developed and implemented to maximize the space used, in order to produce higher harvests, thus producing higher profits. In order to do this, netting and wire mesh are used to allow the plants to grow out versus up, producing more buds that can be sold for consumer use. This poses new and increased entanglement hazards for interior fire attack crews and police officer's executing a warrant. Heavy high voltage lighting is installed to simulate sunlight so the plants will grow, creating increased overhead fall hazards. Chemicals such as Sulfur and Carbon Dioxide are used to control molds and increased Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) production.
An unrealized consequence to the madness that Marijuana has created, is the increased use of Butane Hash Oil and the many applications that go hand in hand with it. This new challenge and growing popularity has dynamically changed the landscape of the American Fire Service. The processes, hazards and real life case studies will be covered during this class to increase the situational awareness of responders.
These are just a few of the items of concern when operating on an incident at a Marijuana Grow. First responders need to be diligent in their preplanning to address concerns that will arise when operating on an offensive attack at a Marijuana Grow.
This class was developed and implemented to show historical data and decision making processes by the citizens of Colorado, law makers and ultimately the Federal government. This class has been highlighted at the Baltimore IAFC Hazmat Conference, Hot Zone, Cold Zone, Midwest Hazmat Conference and the Indiana State Hazmat conference.
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