Inside The Laughing Gas Black Market
So how did you figure out how to take nitrous out of hospitals? Why did you choose to sell nitrous instead of any other drug? With the highest level of consumption on the continent, no one takes drugs quite like the British. This is high society. A series where we meet dealers, users, and manufacturers. To find out why the UK has one of the world’s most excessive drug habits. British people use nitrous oxide more than any other country in the world. As soon as I get a rip, a sound goes off And it recently became the second most popular drug in the UK. She loves it. She loves it. The media quickly became obsessed with it. After a handful of NOS related deaths. But reports of its dangers were often over inflated. The government’s response has been to include it in the psychoactive substances act. This is a law that came about in response to the popularity of legal highs. Putting a ban on the sale of anything that can change your mental state except alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee. Now, selling nitrous carries a sentence of up to seven years. We set out to discover what happens when you restrict a substance over-night and how dealers will continue to supply Britain with its much-loved gas. Rarely you will find a house party without NOS. You just get a bit light-headed your whole body goes tingly. it does kill a few brain cells out of this world for a few seconds I’m in another dimension entering and leaving a room come to me, boom boom boom. it’s a short term, for like an effective feeling. we usually use at the late end of a night after we’ve been taking pills or whatever you’ll take it There’s nothin’ better Cause you feel like: I have sussed life and then you wake and you’re like, mate, I was kettin’, I’ve just done a balloon and this is absolute bullshit. Do you know what I mean? Inside the sanctity of a house party, you can still huff as much nitrous as you want But we wanted to find out whether the law had any effect on street dealers who have to loudly inflate fluorescent balloons, in full view of roving policemen. It’s 5:30 a.m. and a massive club’s just gotten out, and balloon sellers are starting to appear out of the woodwork. We’re going to meet Simeon, a seasoned nitrous dealer who’s decided to ignore the law and continue his roaring trade. So, is now the best time to go out and sell balloons? It’s like 6 o’clock, so the club’s just finished, so what I try and do is, I try and get there at the end and then I can just get busy doing a lot of the, catch the stream of people. So, now the law has changed, are you finding there’s less demand? In terms of the demand for it on the street, it’s just as crazy as it was before It’s made the balloon sellers a bit more wary but the difference is we’re doing it, first of all, the rules are slightly different to when you’re in the public space and you’ve got the general public around you. I’ve no right to sell balloons on the road to be honest with you cause, it’s, that’s when you get mixed up into the wrong crowd of like, street dealing, and then they kinda see you as a drug dealer and really and truly, before the law changed, I was doing this with an entrepreneurial spirit where I figured, alright, I can just go out and sell something, that’s not illegal and make money from it and that was my main reason why I chose to sell balloons over anything else So the new Psychoative Substances Act turned you into a drug dealer Basically, yeah I feel like a criminal for doing something that, yesterday, it was fine for me to do. And how to you get around the fact that there’s security everywhere, cause it’s like, a nightclub. Ah, that’s a tricky one. The security, to be honest with you, they turn a blind eye as long as you’re not causing too much aggro outside then they’re relatively alright with the sale as long as you stay out the way I noticed that as soon as the music stops and the night ends, there’s like a huge flood of people coming like sharks to a feeding frenzy. How popular is it now? If there was a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say 100. Do you ever have rivalries with different NOS dealers? I haven’t seen any violence in the balloon community at all The balloons themselves, it’s all lax I’ll be honest with you, yeah But what’s happened is, a lot of new young lads coming onto the scene, right, they are coming with violence Basically, what they’re seen, right, because it’s something that’s been criminalized, there must be a lucrative benefit from it and now that’s why they’re tryna come into it NOS is not that deep, the law has made people think that it’s a really shady area, blame Theresa May for that stuff. (laughter) Although Simeon remains bold enough to join an open air nitrous market pushing the trade deeper underground has led dealers to adopt shadier methods of sale which take advantage of the law’s gaping loop hole. Yeah, see you in 5 So, that was Brighton’s biggest nitrous oxide dealer, and we’re gonna follow him around in his car tonight Under the guise of a catering company, this dealer manages to skirt the line of legailty Hey buddy How’s it going? Is this a delivery right now? Yeah. This is one here Can I see the box? Creme Capsules Misuse can be dangerous to your health. Do not inhale. Is there much selling on the street round here or is it usually done by car? Usually done by car, it’s all changed really, you used to get it by just cracking em and telling em out But that’s all stopped now, I think, they’ve had a massive sort of crack down on that We know someone who is still selling on the streets of London. Does that surprise you? Does he sell em cracked or does he sell it in box? Yeah, he sells them cracked, in the balloons In my opinion, he’s asking to, sort of, be arrested Would you pass me 4? Thank you buddy, cheers for that We don’t just sell to, like, students They use it for their cream products. Can you pass me 3, is that alright mate? Cheers Just give me a ring anytime. Yeah. Lovely. (phone rings) Hello. Yeah. What was it for? No, it’s alright. See you in a minute. Bye. So, when you’re asking what they’re using it for, you’re basically covering yourself Yeah. I mean, it’s on Facebook, on Twitter, Instagram, you know, just reminders that it is a catering products and it’s not to be sold for human consumption And do they actually say, ‘Oh, this is for whipped cream’? They said, ‘Yeah, just for cream’. So. What they do with it after is completely down to them really But if they say, ‘I’m using it to get high’, you’re not gonna not sell it them to them, are you? Now. Yeah, I wouldn’t sell it now. Did you know that last week it was legal and this week it’s not? Is this-I got that this is just a big joke. So. The amount of people who sell it isn’t gonna change. The amount of people who buy it isn’t gonna change All that changes is the method that they use to get it Yeah And how much money they’re paying Definitely. And the prices to buy it, I think, is now so cheap you can get it for a pound So, you can buy it outside a club Direct to your door like a take-away Or even on the high street from the catering store All I had to do was say that I was a chef and because it’s a legal loophole, it’s extremely easy to buy 50 nitrous bulbs It’s pretty much the only drug you can buy over the counter in broad day light The unlikeliest NOS dealers we found were the police themselves who used the same loophole to sell canisters that they had seized as evidence on eBay. When we called them for comment They stated that “the sale of NOS chargers is not prohibited in the UK, But that “On reflection, they regret placing these items for sale.” With even the police trying to get a piece of the action it would seem that the supply chain of nitrous hasn’t been affected by the law. When the government first considered banning NOS they asked their advisory council what the drug’s main dangers were their reply wasn’t related to health issues but to the theft of nitrous from NHS Hospitals Today, kids at squat raves are more interested in balloons than booze so, dealers have had to source far larger containers to meet that demand. We wanted to see how this brazen crime is committed and whether criminalizing nitrous has stopped thieves from doing it. Walk me through, step-by-step, how does it work when you’re breaking into a hospital Yeah. Have you ever got caught? Is that not enough? So where’re we going right now? So, you’ve taken canisters from this hospital in the past? Yeah. Wow. Yeah Are hospitals starting to catch on to what you guys have been doing? Do you have to look for a new hospital now? OK. Why do you call it a pencil? OK. And how much is this worth? How much do you make outta this? And you’ve got it for free cause it’s from the hospital We’ve seen that changing the law hasn’t affected the demand And, so, people like Big Blue, will continue to rob medical facilities and street sellers will continue to innovate as they get pushed deeper into the black market It seems like the law has only succeeded in criminalizing more people whilst the market has been forced to adapt Meanwhile thousands of people across the country continue to spend their weekends sucking on children’s balloons What’s the meaning of life? (indiscernible) NO Hey! (beeping noises) Fair enough Why you laughing bruv?