MCSO: Dangerous form of concentrated marijuana, 'crude oil' has hit Arizona black market

A dangerous form of marijuana is flooding across the Arizona border and quickly spreading across the U.S.

"Seizures are up, our arrests are up, the dangers for our deputies has increased dramatically," said Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone.

It's called 'crude oil' -- a highly potent, concentrated form of marijuana that's used for vaping or edibles. It's something sheriffs deputies are seeing more and more of.

"So 25 gallons of crude and we recovered about 10,000 cartridges total off of that one guy," said MCSO Detective Matthew Shay.

"So in 2017, we had seized 16 pounds of crude oil, that number doubled in 2018, last year it was over 230," said Penzone.

To make it, marijuana leaves are washed with dangerous chemicals like propane which extracts the high inducing THC. It's then mixed with ethanol and distilled, ready for vaping.

"Each one of these is worth.. if it's full, $12,000," said Shay.

The vaping cartridges sell for about $50. They're not only sold on the black market but on social media, too.

Detectives were able to track down a dealer near Phoenix, right from his home operation.

"We located him through advertising to his various clients through social media.. he had his own warehouse where he had a large lab set up there," said Shay.

As western states started legalizing marijuana, cartels switched production to this stronger, more addictive crude oil marijuana to keep business going.

"Every organization that's involved in cultivating and smuggling marijuana is going to be adopting this just because it's a way to get rid of the marijuana that they have that's not as popular here, but also just because of the fact that it's more compact," said Scott Stewart, Vice President of Tactical Analysis Stratfor.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, along with other statewide departments are trying to get the upper hand.

"So we have a health crisis, we have a crime crisis and we have an epidemic," said Penzone.

The sheriff's office say they're trying to track down the exact shipping points from Mexico by working with federal officials at the Drug Enforcement Administration.