This is a conversation with the Detroit based Mike of @georgewaxhingtonextracts. Everything in quotes is transcribed from our phone interview.
Mike had been blasting for eight months when he set himself on fire. The day the shit hit the fan he was 16 oz. into a 32 oz. run. He was pouring THC-infused butane from a mason jar into a pot on a NuWave hot plate. He’d done the same run a bunch of times and made a lot of good wax with no problems. But it was a dry winter night in the Midwest and he’d just dragged his feet across his carpet. A spark of static electricity shot from his hand to the dripping concentrate.
“i heard a crackle and a pop on the end of my sleeve and i looked down and all 8 cans [of butane] that i was dumping… was on fire. and it was like a ring of fire. it was the weirdest thing i’ve ever saw in my life…
“the edge of the pot right along the glass was burning… this bluish flame like it was a torch… i figured i was calm enough to grab that pot and move it off of the nuwave so that i could unplug it. well, when that happened i was shaken so bad that butane splashed out. when it splashed out the flames went from about 10 inches to about [laughs] 55 inches and started going through the fan above the stove.
“and within about a minute and a half it was 6 foot up touching the ceiling and i, um… panicked. couldn’t find the fire extinguisher in time. it was underneath the sink and then it was behind some stuff so when i grabbed at it, i missed it, i panicked. i ran. i grabbed the towel, i smothered the stuff on the stove and ran out the front door with it and threw it out into the lawn.”
I discovered Mike and his company George Waxhington when I saw his gnarly Instagram posts. He dove into blasting without fully knowing what he was doing, melted half his kitchen and burnt off a couple square feet of skin. He posted the pics to warn other extractors before they ended up blowing up their houses too.
@georgewaxhingtonxtracts: This was me @_____ almost a year ago! Just reposting, Know alot of people running inside. Using oil pumps with no Gas Mufflers on them an no fire extinguishers around. Shits Crazy, just want to make the mass aware that what we do is Dangerous.
“by the grace of god i only got second degree burns… when i dumped it and the static electricity popped at the end of my hand it basically caught that jar on fire and when it went ‘whoof’ it came back and just scorched my whole hand. it was the whole top of my right hand all the way to my pinky, almost all the way to the top of my wrist. and it swelled up in about an inch and a half thick watery blisters and each finger looked like uncooked polish sausages. i had a few burns on my chest [too]…
“the whole house was filled full of smoke. uh, i ruined… the stove fan in the kitchen, it took out three cabinets, as well as a light fixture in the kitchen because it melted the side of it and the plastic fell out of it. it bubbled all of the paint on the wall and melted the laminate behind the stove. that was, uh, that was pretty fun. It was roughly about three thousand dollars in damage.”
Mike had fucked up his body and his house. But at least he didn’t go to jail too.
“ … like i said i had 32 cans of butane. i had already run 16 cans, i had 16 cans of butane sitting in the foyer going out the front door… as well as the dishes, all these pyrex dishes. so, caught fire, ran out the door. i managed to put it out, fire department never came. and then i ended up driving myself – cleaning up the whole mess – driving myself to the hospital as my skin was just like leaking off my hand.
“but the cops never came, nobody managed to find out, i didn’t blow up… like i said i only caused myself second degree burns and i healed. it took me about 2 ½ months.”
After about four months, he got back in the game with his eyes open. A year after the fire, he’s attacking extraction with scientific precision. Mike and his new partner have a new sterile indoor set-up with the required square footage and ventilation. They got new equipment too, and started working with ethanol and hexane. They even wear lab coats.
“i don’t know. the itching came back and i wanted to start doing it again… i actually found my new partner now… she graduated from wayne state university. she has a masters in environmental science and an understudy in chemistry. so she knows a lot of the scientifics. she knows boiling points, reaction points, explosion points, a lot of things…
“[extractors] call themselves artists and they’re not artists. it’s not an art. it’s a chemistry. you know, you’re playing with organic solvents… you have these people who have no background like me – had no background, had no place even trying to do something like that, but now… she schooled me. she sat me down and she said if you want to do this, and you want to do this the right way, this is how you’re going to do it…
“so we went through and totally re-amped a lot of our equipment. we purchased a buchi rotovap, an R-200 rotovap… we of course have the across international oven now. we have a homemade closed loop system which is just basically built off of a normal spec passive unit, you know.”
George Waxhington isn’t just about maintaining itself as a business. Mike knows that extraction is a young science and he’s excited about everything that’s still left to be done in the field. There are so many refinements and innovations coming in the next few years and he wants G.W. to be a part of it. That doesn’t mean just experimenting and grinding on their own. It means better communication between blasters.
“you know, everybody out here wants to keep it a secret and how they process the medicine. i thought the whole point of this whole community was to bring the cleanest meds to the masses. what [my partner]’s focusing on is what… clear concentrate is doing… they are setting a standard like what we would like to do, you know… there’s no guidelines out there right now…”