A 28-year-old man in Ontario was sentenced today to six years in prison after his DIY shatter lab caused an explosion last year that led to the death of a neighboring tenant.
According to the Cornwall Standard Freeholder, Andrew Ross pleaded guilty last December to several charges, including manslaughter, violating probation by possessing an explosive substance, arson, causing an explosion by fire, and producing shatter, a cannabis extract that requires large quantities of flammable solvents like butane to produce.
On March 26, 2017, the lab Ross had in an apartment he was renting experienced an explosion that caused the death of 67-year-old Michael Lalonde.
Ross, who had set up the lab a few months earlier, had left a batch of shatter in his apartment’s freezer to cure, where fumes from the butane collected in the confined space.
When Lalonde opened the freezer door, a nearby ignition source—thought to be a cigarette—caused the fumes to ignite, setting the man on fire and killing him before he could be removed from the apartment.
The Standard Freeholder reported the explosion was so powerful that “it blew the freezer door completely off its hinges and threw it more than 10 feet away from the refrigerator”.
Both Ross and Lalonde’s son, David Lalonde, escaped, thinking that Michael had fled.
Three days later, Ross was arrested and charged.
During an investigation into the explosion, 31 empty butane cans were recovered from the apartment.
“The decriminalization of marijuana may incite many into believing that any extraction from a marijuana plant and the production of a derivative would be fair game. But it is clear that the production of shatter is a dangerous, illegal act,” said Justice Johanne Lafrance-Cardinal, the judge presiding over the case.
“To do the extraction process in a small, ventilated apartment with other tenants in the same building is reckless…to use drugs in the confines of your own apartment is one thing. It is something quite different when your drug production endangers the lives of other occupants, visitors, and everyone in proximity.”
Although Crown prosecutors requested a sentence of 6.5 years in prison, Ross’s defense counsel argued that because a similar event had never occurred in Cornwall, he wasn’t aware of the potential dangers associated with making shatter. As such, the defense argued, he should only be sentenced to four to five years in prison.
In the end, Ross was sentenced to 5.5 years for manslaughter and an additional six months for producing shatter.