SoCal NOZ raid yields $20 million in drug, largest raid in nation


The case was dubbed "Operation No Laughing Matter," a 15-month investigation into mis-branding nitrous oxide and selling it for recreational use, usually targeting teens. Teen usually ingest it out at parties and raves out of balloons that cost about $5 to $10 a hit for a high that lasts just minutes.

It's supposed to be used by dentists, or in food products like whipped cream cans, even to propel race cars. But nitrous oxide as a recreational drug is an alarming trend among teens.

"I just know that a lot of teens do it when they're out partying just to get crazy and have fun," said Huntington Park resident Gisselle Medina.

"You could die from inhaling too much nitrous oxide, as well as, there's been violent incidents related to it, we've seen shootings, rapes, assaults occurring at parties where these things are at. We've seen fatal traffic collisions occurring because people have inhaled nitrous oxide and passed out while driving," said L.A. County Sheriff's Lieutenant Rodrick Armalin.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is cracking down with the help of the Food and Drug Administration, as well as other law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California. More than a dozen search warrants were served in L.A., Orange and San Bernardino counties Friday.

"You can see these locations actually advertising on social media, and you'll see them attached to certain social media pages or Facebook pages of individuals or promoters that are giving parties," said Armalin.

Since September, deputies have cracked down on 350 parties where nitrous oxide, also called "Noz," was being sold illegally to teens, usually marketed online via social media.

Now authorities are going after distributors. They hope Friday's raid will put a major dent in the source.

But authorities also urge parents to take an active role in preventing kids from ever trying the drug.

"When it comes to social media, parents should be involved in what their children are doing," said L.A. County Sheriff's Detective Tony Moore. "Quite simply, having one computer, having that computer in a public area, something that they don't have private access to."

The federal charge of mis-branding a drug is a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to a year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.

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