Devon and Cornwall Police has apologised for selling nitrous oxide - known as 'hippie crack' - on eBay.
The force listed boxes containing 24 8g canisters of nitrous oxide for £10, with free delivery. They were being sold via an account used to dispose of unclaimed lost property, seized items and the like that raised £12,000 in its first ten months.
But while the canisters have a legitimate use in catering and are marketed for use powering whipped cream dispensers, they are also used to get high.
But while the effects have led to the nickname laughing gas, they can also include hallucinations; and if too much is taken, it's even possible for lack of oxygen to lead to death.
The listing is all the more outrageous given that the force has had a problem with nitrous oxide for years.
It put out warnings about the danger of the gas in 2012 and 2015, after empty canisters were found lying around.
"They don't come without danger, and numerous deaths have been linked to their use in recent years," PCSO Phil Thomas said at the time.
"Police advice is not to use them and I suggest parents may like to research the internet and acquaint themselves with nitrous oxide capsules, which are freely available online."
The eBay listing was spotted by the Feed The Birds Facebook group: "You know the war on drugs has failed when your local police force are also the local drug dealers," commented one member.
The force has now apologised, and has removed the remaining canisters from sale. It points out that the listing did contain a warning about misuse of the canisters.
"Devon and Cornwall police has a responsibility to dispose of seized and excess items in the most cost-efficient way possible, but it is not force policy to sell items that are viewed as contentious by the public," a spokesperson told the Plymouth Herald.
"On reflection, we regret placing these items for sale. Our force policy has been revised to ensure these items are destroyed and not sold. All similar items have been withdrawn from sale."
Ten unfortunate criminal mistakes
Ten unfortunate criminal mistakes
In May, Paul Robert Benson, a 24-year-old from Lurgan, stole groceries from his local supermarket. He might have got away without being identified, if he hadn’t decided to wear a Manchester United top with 'Benson 22' written on the back.
The judge sentencing him to 12 months probation said that he might as well have had a neon sign on his back.
In January, Scott Tinsley, a 38-year-old from Cobridge in Staffordshire, was jailed for 40 months after admitting burglary.
He broke into a property in the middle of the night, took electrical items, and put them in a garden a few doors down. However, he then started feeling a bit peckish, so he popped back to the property to make himself a snack. Then he promptly fell asleep - and was discovered by the homeowners in the morning.
In September 2014, a drunk burglar in the Chinese city of Suqian, talked himself into a corner.
He broke into a fifth floor flat on the mistaken assumption that it was empty, and was quickly caught by the owner’s ten-year-old daughter. When she asked what he was doing there, he decided his best defence was to say that he was Superman, and was about to fly back to his secret headquarters.
She told him to prove it, so the burglar stripped to his underwear and jumped out of the window. He told police from his hospital bed that it had seemed to make sense when he was drunk.
In July 2014, Stewart James Wright, a 37-year-old from Middlesbrough, thought he’d stumbled across the perfect crime.
He saw the door open at a student house, so wandered in and simply picked up their 42-inch-TV. Unfortunately for him, he hadn't really thought through his getaway plan.
He’d travelled to the area by bike, and was stopped by police cycling along a nearby road, trying to balance the TV on the handlebars. He was on bail at the time for stealing a bike.
In June 2014, Jamie Neil, a 41-year-old from Bethel in Cornwall, was jailed for robbing a petrol station in St Austell.
His plan to disguise himself by putting a plastic bag over his head would have worked better if he hadn't chosen a completely transparent one.
In June 2014, Nigel Ball, a 52-year-old from Wakefield, was found guilty of stealing a fish tank from a pet shop. He was caught after going back to the store to buy fish to put in it, and when staff asked him what sort of tank he had, he pointed to the type he had just stolen.
He had to complete a form with his contact details in order to take the fish, so police tracked him down to his home where they found the stolen tank.
In October 2013, a man from Perth tried to rob a corner shop, and was foiled by his trousers.
He took the till, and tried to run away with it, but his trousers were so loose they kept falling down. In the end he was forced to drop the till so he could hang onto his trousers. In the confusion he also dropped his knife and a pair of gloves, and a police dog used them to track him down. He was jailed for three and a half years.
In February 2013, a man in the Washington suburb of Laurel concocted a flawed plan to rob a bank.
His big mistake was failing to bring a bag, so he dropped the cash on the floor. He stopped to pick it up and put it in an open umbrella. Unfortunately for him, while he was held up collecting the money, the police deflated the tires on his car.
He tried to escape on foot, but slipped on a patch of ice and banged his head: at which point he gave up.
In January 2008, a man from Louisiana decided to rob a seafood restaurant. He forgot to take a disguise, so he picked up a bucket that was lying nearby and put it on his head.
The slight drawback to his disguise was that he wasn’t able to see, so he kept blundering into thing. He also had to keep lifting the bucket up to see where he was going. The security camera was therefore able to glimpse his face, and the man was identified, arrested and charged.
In September 2011, a woman from Manchester tried to steal several hundreds of pounds worth of booze from Asda in Oldham.
She loaded up the trolley, and walked out of the shop without paying. She managed to get to her car and load it up before staff caught up with her.
Sadly for her, when she jumped in the car to make her getaway, she realised she had run out of petrol. She was caught trying to push the car into the petrol station.