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Explosion injures two at Santa Fe cannabis plant

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

An explosion at New Mexicann Natural Medicine’s manufacturing facility in Santa Fe on Thursday left two men in critical condition. It’s the second explosion at the plant that injured workers in five years. ( Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – Two men are in critical condition after an explosion Thursday afternoon at New Mexicann Natural Medicine’s manufacturing facility in Santa Fe, the second explosion injuring workers at the plant in the last five years.

According to the state Department of Health, two employees were seriously injured in the explosion at New Mexicann’s location on San Mateo Lane and were transported by air ambulance to a hospital. Their identities were not released.

Jimmy Vigil, New Mexico State Fire Marshal fire investigations bureau captain, said the two men were in intensive care at a hospital in Denver.

Vigil said Thursday’s incident is under investigation. Fire officials obtained two search warrants early Friday morning for camera footage of the dispensary, the cannabis extraction unit and samples within the unit.

There is property damage to the dispensary, but the extent of that damage is unknown, Vigil said.

Santa Fe City Fire Department, the state Department of Health and OSHA are also investigating the fire.

The two employees were burned on their heads and torsos, according to Greg Gurule, spokesman for the Santa Fe Police Department.

DOH said preliminary information indicated the explosion occurred in the immediate vicinity of the company’s chemical extraction equipment. The exact cause of the explosion was under investigation.

David Morgan, DOH spokesman, said the state issued a notice of immediate suspension of New Mexicann’s approval to manufacture cannabis-derived products.

The notice was issued on Thursday to Carlos Gonzales, the company’s executive director, who did not return phone calls from the Journal on Friday.

The notice affects all New Mexicann dispensary locations and specifically references “compressed gas” extractions. The company has five locations in the state: Taos, Española, Las Vegas and two in Santa Fe.

This is the second such explosion to have occurred at that New Mexicann location.

In 2015, an explosion severely burned two workers extracting the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, in a process in which cannabis is soaked with butane, then heated over flame to boil off liquid and create the paste-like hash oil.

OSHA later fined the company $13,500 and cited it for 12 “serious” violations to workplace health and safety.