Nitrous oxide is a clear, colorless, and odorless gas.  It is widely used by dentists as anesthesia.  It is also used by the food industry as a propellant in items such as whipped cream cans.  When inhaled, nitrous oxide has a numbing and painkilling effect, and can produce feelings of well being.  Because of these effects, it is sometimes used as a drug.  Excessive inhalation can lead to unconsciousness or death. 

Is Nitrous Oxide Legal?

Federal Law

Because of the many legitimate uses of nitrous oxide, it is not considered a "drug", and is not regulated at the federal level as such.  The only federal regulation of nitrous oxide is done by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The FDA does not regulate possession of nitrous oxide, but does regulate sale of nitrous oxide for human consumption.

State Law

In many states, it is 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.  Some states also make possession of nitrous oxide with the intent to inhale the chemical a crime. 

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been charged under state of federal law with illegal possession or distribution of nitrous oxide, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer.  The laws on this substance are complex and vary widely from state to state.  An experienced can help you to understand the law in your state and explain any defenses that may be available to you.