The West Gardiner transfer station employee arrested Monday for allegedly making hash oil, a concentrated marijuana substance, at the town’s waste collection site while on the clock has worked there for about six years.

The employee, Patrick Deschamps, a 24-year-old Gardiner resident who was charged with unlawful trafficking in the schedule X drug hash, won’t be allowed on town property in the interim, and the West Gardiner Board of Selectmen will discuss Thursday night whether to take other action, said Gregory Couture, chairman of the board.

Another employee at the transfer station discovered the hash in a cooking container and contacted town officials, who took photos and sent them to Maine State Police Trooper Christopher Rogers, not knowing what they had found, Rogers said.

Rogers identified the material as hash and secured a warrant to search Deschamps’ car and house, where additional evidence of the manufacturing of hash oil was found, he said.

Hash oil can be made by blasting marijuana with butane to extract the THC, the main psychoactive material in marijuana, according to Vice, a print and online magazine. The liquid is then partially evaporated to remove as much of the butane as possible, leaving a waxy substance that can be inhaled as smoke or vapor or ingested.

A danger of producing butane hash oil is the gas can lead to explosions when contained in a small space, Rogers said. However, no butane was found at the West Gardiner transfer station, he said. The concern at the transfer station was it’s a public place where both adults and children go, he said.

“Anyone could have stumbled across it,” Rogers said. “A kid could have found it, and if that had happened, who knows.”

The amateur production of butane hash oil has been a concern in Colorado and Washington following the legalization of recreational marijuana with referendum votes in 2012. Lawmakers in both states are considering creating laws to regulate what’s allowed when making hash oil following an increase of home fires and explosions, according to the Associated Press. In Colorado, there were 32 butane explosions involving hash oil last year, injuring at least 30 people. The 32 explosions were nearly three times what was reported in 2013.

Deschamps was charged with trafficking because someone who is making a drug is presumed by state law to be trafficking, Rogers said. The charge is a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Deschamps was released from Kennebec County jail Monday on bail, and no trial has been set, according to the county courthouse.

Couture said the selectmen will discuss whether to take any action regarding Deschamps at their meeting Thursday night. He said town officials have told police Deschamps is not allowed on town property at this time. Selectmen will also continue discussing a plan to begin drug testing employees at the transfer station, he said.

The town already randomly drug tests all employs who drive town vehicles in accordance with state law, Couture said. The town had been considering expanding that to transfer station employees for the last two weeks, he said.

Couture said the discussion about expanding drug testing had nothing to do with Deschamps.

Two other employees work at the transfer station, which is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Last year, Deschamps made $20,512 and received health benefits, according to Town Clerk Angela Phillis.

Joseph Ware Jr., the chairman of the town’s recycling committee, said he was surprised when he read that Deschamps had been arrested. Ware said he doesn’t know Deschamps very well, but he had “exchanged pleasantries” with him in Deschamps’ years working at the transfer station.

“He just seems to be a real good guy,” Ware said, “but beyond that, as I said, I don’t know him very well.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig


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