LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved Sen. Joseph Bellino’s legislation to help ban the sale of objects used for the recreational inhalation of nitrous oxide.
Nitrous oxide, sometimes referred to as “laughing gas,” can cause euphoria and mild hallucinations when inhaled. It has been used in dentistry as a light general anesthetic since 1844 but it is now also used in food products, most notably to add volume to whipping cream.
“This is not a laughing matter,” said Bellino, R-Monroe. “While this gas has uses in food preparation and medical services, people are buying charging canisters for the sole purpose of getting high. This legislation seeks to stop this drug abuse by targeting those who sell these chargers but don’t sell the whipping cream they’re designed to inflate.”
A whipping cream dispenser works by releasing nitrous oxide into the cream from a small metal canister called a charger. The chargers contain eight grams of nitrous oxide, which is enough gas to whip one pint of cream. These chargers can be bought at restaurant supply stores or online.
When combined with a “cracker,” a device designed to puncture the canister and control the release of gas, and a durable balloon, the chargers can be used for drug-like purposes.
“The problem is some stores are selling chargers, crackers and balloons without selling whipping cream or dispensers — creating a very convenient way for kids to get ahold of nitrous oxide to get high,” Bellino said.
Senate Bill 57, sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, would amend the Public Health Code to add “an object specifically designed for inhaling nitrous oxide for recreational purposes” to the statute containing the definition for drug paraphernalia. In doing so, it would ban such objects from being sold or offered for sale with the knowledge that it will be used to introduce a controlled substance into the human body.
Bellino’s bill, SB 58, would add the sale or offer for sale of an object designed to facilitate the inhalation of nitrous oxide for recreational use to the existing penalties for other drug paraphernalia. The penalties include incurring a misdemeanor and imprisonment for up to 90 days and a fine of up to $5,000. Penalties for adults who violate the act by selling to a minor increase to up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $7,500, or both.