DOBSON — Two Pilot Mountain residents are wanted in connection with a marijuana growing and “butane honey oil” operation, the first of its kind to be discovered in Surry County, the Surry County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.
Charles James Welsh, 24, and Brittany Leigh Johnson, 23, each face several drug charges issued after a multi-agency search of their Stephens Street residence revealed products and cooking tools consistent with the production of a highly concentrated form of marijuana, according to the statement.
As both suspects are still at large, anyone with information as to their whereabouts is asked to contact authorities.
A butane-honey oil lab uses butane to extract Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is considered the “active ingredient” in marijuana.
“It’s kind of a redo of the old hash oil,” Sheriff Graham Atkinson explained.
Though this was the first time evidence of its production had been discovered locally, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency reported in October 2015 that marijuana concentrates are gaining popularity nationwide.
The “honey oil,” also called “dabs,” or “710,” is a wax-like substance that can be inhaled with e-cigarettes or vaporizers.
It’s smokeless, odorless, easy to conceal and packs a more powerful punch, with THC concentrations potentially about four times higher than in marijuana plants.
The extraction process most frequently utilizes butane, which is colorless, odorless and highly flammable and has resulted in violent explosions, similar to what can happen in meth labs.
Butane and other chemical byproducts can also make their way into the concentrate, making the product that much riskier.
On June 11, Surry County Emergency Medical Service personnel had notified the Pilot Mountain Police Department while treating Welsh for burns on his arms and face, said Atkinson, noting that the suspect’s facial hair and arm hair was scorched and missing.
Welsh had advised EMS personnel that the burns occurred when a butane can exploded, Atkinson stated.
Welsh and Johnson were transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and refused treatment.
The Sheriff’s office and State Bureau of Investigation assisted the town police department in executing a search warrant of the premises.
“The search yielded items related to and consistent with the illegal manufacture and use of marijuana,” Atkinson said, such as recently harvested marijuana plants, capsules containing what is believed to be “honey oil,” grow lamps, cooking tools used in the butane honey oil process, growing fans, fertilizer baggies and rolling papers.
Welsh and Johnson are each charged with manufacturing marijuana, possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana, maintaining a drug dwelling and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Unable to predict if the Pilot Mountain lab was an isolated incident or the beginning of a trend, the sheriff said “the good thing is now we have experience with it and know how to deal with them. Everything we know how to do now we had to do for the first time at some point.”
Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of Welsh or Johnson is asked to contact the Surry County Sheriff’s Office at 336-401-8900 or the Pilot Mountain Police Department 336-368-4725.