Atlanta neighbors frustrated by nitrous oxide use outside Widespread Panic show

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 11:06 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Neighbors in Midtown are frustrated by nitrous oxide use outside Widespread Panic concerts at the Fox Theatre.

“It turns into absolute debauchery for two, four and five days at a time,” said Deford Smith, who lives near the Fox Theatre.

Smith said a select group of fans uses nitrous oxide outside the theatre, leaving behind trash and balloons.

“People will just inhale maybe gallon-sized balloons of gas, pass out on the street, and just leave the balloons everywhere just trash,” said Smith in an interview with CSB46 on Friday.

“I realize this is a city, but this is still a community where people live and work, and it’s not nice to trash a community,” Smith said.

Neighbors told CBS46 that they’ve witnessed active selling of these balloons and other drugs outside the venue.

“They make it very clear what they’re selling because they’ll scream out in public ice cold, they’ll scream out birthday, they’ll scream out hippie crack. It’s the street name for nitrous oxide,” Smith said.

Smith said they’ve reached out to the Atlanta Police Department to address this annual issue.

A department spokesperson told CBS46 News they have not received any official reports surrounding this issue, but are now looking for more video evidence.

According to the 2020 Georgia Code, it is illegal to sell nitrous oxide, outside of professional medical purposes.

If convicted, someone can face a fine of up to $5,000 or jail time.

A search online shows this issue has followed the band Widespread Panic across the country.

We saw reports dating back to 2011 of communities upset from nitrous oxide use.

Buck Williams, the manager for Widespread Panic, told CBS46 News they are aware of this activity from a small group of fans.

Williams said in other cities they have tried to work with local agencies to address the issue around nitrous oxide use.

“It’s not something we like or endorse but we understand it’s out there. There’s nothing we can do.”

Williams said many of the users typically are not fans necessarily but just know it’s oftentimes available outside of Widespread Panic shows.

CBS46 reached out to the Fox Theatre about this issue, but we did not get a response back.