COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — A major drug bust at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia. Police seize cash and tanks of laughing gas at a concert, arresting 12 people accused of selling the chemical.

Christie Ileto with details.

One concertgoer says distributors were filling balloons with the chemical and selling them to people leaving. Police say the suspects routinely target large concerts.

What started as a night of chords and high notes at a Phish concert ended with police busting 12 people outside Merriweather Post Pavilion for possession and distribution of nitrous oxide — also known as laughing gas — a chemical that can be mind altering when inhaled.

“These suspects are part of an organized group that travels the East Coast distributing this drug at different concerts,” said Lori Boone, Howard County Police Department.

Cash, 32 tanks and cars are seized.

“As I was leaving the event, going back to my car, you could hear the nitrous going off. It sounds like a whistle,” one man said.

On condition of anonymity, this man candidly describes what happens next.

“I was pulling out of the parking lot, the police were finally pulling into the parking lot after letting this go on for about 45 minutes,” he said. “Police took the tanks and took a lot of people into custody.”

While this time it was only laughing gas, it’s not the first time Merriweather has been at the heart of illegal drug activity. For many living around the pavilion, they’re asking how did this happen again?

Last summer, 20 people overdosed at a concert, including a Maryland student who died.

“It’s one thing to smuggle a pocket full of pills or grass, but laughing gas? I mean,” said Ron Snyder.

The venue tells WJZ they work closely with police, and for security reasons, don’t discuss details — but those details might be coming into question — again.

Using and distributing nitrous oxide are both misdemeanors.

The band Phish played in North Carolina the night before Merriweather. Sixty-five people there were arrested for open drug use and alcohol violations.


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