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Nitrous
Legal Status
by Erowid
U.S. FEDERAL LAW #
Caution :   All legal information should be verified through other sources. [see below]
U.S. FEDERAL LEGAL SUMMARY
Nitrous
REGULATED
No
STATUS
FDA Regulated
SCHEDULE
Un-Scheduled
Nitrous is available over-the-counter in kitchen stores and head shops. At this point its sale for human consumption is federally regulated under FDA rules. Possession is not illegal, but sale or distribution for human consumption can be prosecuted under the Food Drug and Cosmetics Act. However, in many states is it illegal to sell or distribute nitrous oxide to a minor and in many states it is illegal to consume nitrous oxide for recreational purposes. It is also illegal in many states to inhale nitrous oxide for intoxication purposes.

There are cases where sale of nitrous oxide has been prosecuted under the 'misbranding' clause of the FDCA.

U.S. STATE LAW #
Many states outlaw the use of nitrous for recreational purposes and the sale of nitrous oxide in tanks is controlled with a variety of licensing requirements.

State Laws Concerning Nitrous Oxide (May 2002)
State by State Inhalant Legislation (somewhat out of date, 1997)

California #
California state law prohibits the possession of nitrous oxide with the intent to use it as a psychoactive unless it is administered by medical personnel. See California penal code 381b : "381b. Any person who possesses nitrous oxide or any substance containing nitrous oxide, with the intent to breathe, inhale, or ingest for the purpose of causing a condition of intoxication,elation, euphoria, dizziness, stupefaction, or dulling of the senses or for the purpose of, in any manner, changing, distorting, or disturbing the audio, visual, or mental processes, or who knowingly and with the intent to do so is under the influence of nitrous oxide or any material containing nitrous oxide is guilty of a misdemeanor. This section shall not apply to any person who is under the influence of nitrous oxide or any material containing nitrous oxide pursuant to an administration for the purpose of medical, surgical, or dental care by a person duly licensed to administer such an agent."
Florida #
A new 2005 law in Florida makes possession and use of nitrous oxide for inhaling pruposes a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500.00 fine. Selling, purchasing, transferring, or possessing more than 16 grams of nitrous oxide for the purpose of inhaling is now a third-degree felony punishable by five (5) years in prison and a $5,000.00 fine. Florida also closed a loophole that allowed nitrous oxide and nitrous oxide paraphernalia (used to store, transfer, or inhale nitrous oxide) to be sold in tobacco shops. Now the use or possession with intent to use such nitrous oxide paraphernalia is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by one (1) year in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. See Florida State Statute Title XLVI Chapter 877.111. (thanks D5)
Oregon #
Oregon controls Nitrous Oxide as an inhalant under Chapter 229, section 1. It makes the possession of inhalants illegal "for the purpose of inducing intoxication".
INTERNATIONAL LAW #
Australia #
We believe that as of July 1, 2004, Australia now adds a number of police powers for searching and detaining individuals under 18 and seizing "volatile inhalants" from them. The Oct 2004 Australian Government Institute of Criminology seems to have out of date information and doesn not mention the new rule. More up to date information can be found at the Australian Drug Info Clearinghouse.

Australian rules now are that police may search and detain (not arrest) anyone under 18 who they suspect of using inhalants. The police are to free the young person once they are no longer a danger to themselves or others. It is not entirely clear if this rule includes Nitrous Oxide, but this seems to be the assumption.
Brazil #
Nitrous is legal for medical use only, but is available for purchase over the internet. (unconfirmed) (thanks P)
Canada #
Nitrous chargers widely available over-the-counter. We have been told that many stores will only sell to people 25 and older. (unconfirmed) (thanks J)
Netherlands #
Nitrous chargers are widely available over-the-counter. The use of nitrous oxide for recreational purposes is legal (not prohibited). Nitrous oxide is legally sold to the general public for food use, though it is technically illegal to sell for recreational use (it is considered a prescription medicine when inhaled). Many stores regularly sell to people under 18. (thanks K, LB) (last updated Oct 11, 2012)
New Zealand #
In April, 2005, the New Zealand Ministry of Health reviewed the use of Nitrous Oxide and declared that much of the importation, sale, and possession was for "misuse" and in violation of the Medicines Act of 1981. Nitrous Oxide whip cream chargers have become difficult to buy over-the-counter as of May 1, 2005. See Ministry of Health Background Information on Nitrous Oxide and Scoop.co.nz.
U.K. #
Nitrous Oxide is widely available in the United Kingdom. In the UK possesion of nitrous for non-inhalant use is not controlled and is legal. It is illegal to sell or provide nitrous oxide to someone under 18 years old "if he knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the substance is, or its fumes are, likely to be inhaled by the person under the age of eighteen for the purpose of causing intoxication.". See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1985/26/section/1. One visitor tells us the law is only only enforced against locations such as night clubs that sell or allow to be sold nitrous oxide and have been warned by authorities. (thanks D) (last updated Jan 24, 2013)
Nitrous oxide is controlled differerently around the world. A few countries control it as a pharmaceutical, while many allow its possession for food uses without any licensing.

If you have information about the legal status of this substance in any other country, please let us know.

CAUTION & DISCLAIMER #
Erowid legal information is a summary of data gathered from site visitors, government documents, websites, and other resources. We are not lawyers and can not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided here. We do our best to keep this information correct and up-to-date, but laws are complex and constantly changing. Laws may also vary from one jurisdiction to another (county, state, country, etc)...this list is not comprehensive.