pepper spray laws by state

Pepper Spray Laws by State: A Simple Cheat Sheet With All the Details

In Concealed Carry Laws by M.D. Creekmore

pepper spray laws by state

by Brett K

Pepper spray is a non-lethal chemical compound that works by causing temporary blindness and is primarily used in self-defense (including animals) and for crowd or riot control.

Pepper spray is a great self-defense tool when a firearm, or lethal weapon, is not needed, not allowed, or if you just don’t like to use firearms. Whether you are jogging in the evening on a dark street or hiking in the mountains, there are numerous reasons for needing and choosing pepper spray, and consistently carrying it on your person.

It is easy to conceal and carry

Because of its small size, pepper spray is easy to carry and conceal. Common devices include (but are certainly not limited to) hip holsters or key chains that give you the ability to access and use pepper spray almost instantly. And it can easily be disguised.

It is affordable

Though prices will range, you can easily purchase pepper spray for under $10, making it an affordable self-defense option for anyone.

You can make pepper spray at home

In the event of a situation where you can no longer purchase pepper spray, here is a helpful guide on making pepper spray at home.

It is legal in all 50 states

Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states, though there are some conditions in place in certain states.

Pepper Spray Laws

Carrying and using pepper spray for self-defense is recognized and legal in all 50 states. But before entering a state, it is important to understand the varying laws in each respective state.

That is because possession or use of pepper spray may be limited or restricted in some jurisdictions. Some states have limitations that include:

  • The size of the pepper spray container;
  • The concentration of the pepper spray;
  • The age you must be to possess or purchase pepper spray;
  • Prohibitions against felons or others with a criminal history from possessing or purchasing pepper spray.

While many states may have restrictions, no state requires training or a permit to possess or purchase pepper spray, whether it is concealed or not.

A large number of states make no mention of pepper spray or similar chemicals and therefore have no restriction on their legal use. And there are some commonsense laws that are on the books in a number of states, such as a prohibition against using pepper spray on law enforcement officers.

Pepper spray is for self-defense purposes only regardless of the state and whether or not they make mention of pepper spray in their state statutes.

Disclaimer: These laws are subject to change at any time, and certain municipalities may have additional restrictions. Therefore you should check with your local law enforcement officials to verify current statutes. See our full disclaimer here.

Here is a rundown of the laws in each, with applicable legal statute (if available).

Pepper Spray Laws in Alabama

Alabama has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Alabama. The only restrictions in Alabama concerning the use of pepper spray is in the commission of a crime.

“The crime of criminal use of a defense spray is committed if the perpetrator uses a defense spray including, but not limited to pepper spray, foam and any other self-defense chemical spray against another person in the commission of a crime or against a law enforcement officer while the law enforcement officer is performing his or her official duties.”

Read the Alabama statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in Alaska

Pepper spray is legal in Alaska, with certain restrictions. State law prohibits the sale of a defensive weapon, including pepper spray, to a person under 18 years old. It is also illegal to possess in a school without the permission of school authorities.

“A person is justified in using nondeadly force upon another when and to the extent, the person reasonably believes it is necessary for self-defense against what the person reasonably believes to be the use of unlawful force by the other person.”

Read the Alaska statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in Arizona

Arizona has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Arizona. The use of pepper spray is not allowed in response to verbal provocation alone or to resist arrest.

“A person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force.”

Read the Arizona statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in Arkansas

It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship pepper spray to Arkansas, yet the container cannot exceed 150 cubic centimeters (150 cc).

“Except as otherwise provided in this section, any person who carries or has in his or her possession any tear gas or pepper spray in any form, or any person who knowingly carries or has in his or her possession any gun, bomb, grenade, cartridge, or other weapon designed for the discharge of tear gas or pepper spray, upon conviction is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. It is lawful for a person to possess or carry, and use, a container of tear gas or pepper spray to be used for self-defense purposes only. However, the capacity of the container shall not exceed one hundred fifty cubic centimeters (150 cc).”

Read the Arkansas statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in California

It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship pepper spray to California. The pepper spray container must be less than 2.5 ounces. There is a prohibition against minors possessing pepper spray and selling to a minor. Also, there is a prohibition against individuals who have been convicted of a felony or are addicted to a narcotic.

“Notwithstanding any other law, any person may purchase, possess, or use tear gas and tear gas weapons (pepper spray) for the projection or release of tear gas if the tear gas and tear gas weapons are used solely for self-defense purposes, subject to the following requirements: No person convicted of a felony or any crime involving an assault under the laws of the United States, the State of California, or any other state, government, or country or convicted of misuse of tear gas shall purchase, possess, or use tear gas or tear gas weapons. No person who is addicted to any narcotic drug shall purchase, possess, or use tear gas or tear gas weapons. No person shall sell or furnish any tear gas or tear gas weapon to a minor. No person who is a minor shall purchase, possess, or use tear gas or tear gas weapons.”

Read the California statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Colorado

Colorado has no specific statute prohibiting or limiting pepper spray, or similar products. Therefore, it is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Colorado.

“A person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person, and he may use a degree of force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for that purpose.”

Read the Colorado statute concerning self-defense

Pepper Spray Laws in Connecticut

It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship pepper spray to Connecticut. There is no specific statute concerning pepper spray.

Pepper Spray Laws in Delaware

It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship pepper spray to Delaware, however, you must be at least 18 years old to possess pepper spray.

Read the Delaware statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Florida

It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship pepper spray to Florida, but the pepper spray containers cannot be more than 2 ounces. Convicted felons are prohibited from possessing pepper spray.

“Self-defense chemical spray means a device carried solely for purposes of lawful self-defense that is compact in size, designed to be carried on or about the person, and contains not more than two ounces of chemical.”

Read the Florida statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Georgia

Georgia has no specific statute prohibiting or limiting pepper spray, or similar products. Therefore, it is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Georgia.

Pepper Spray Laws in Hawaii

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to Hawaii, though you must be at least 18 years old to purchase or possess pepper spray. The maximum size of a container that can be mailed is .5 ounces.

“Restrictions on possession, sale, and use of pepper sprays. It is unlawful for any person to use any pepper spray for any purpose except: Self-defense; Defense of another person; or Protection of property of the person or of another person. It is unlawful for any person to sell or offer for sale any pepper spray in the city without a license.

It is unlawful for any person to sell, offer for sale or otherwise furnish any pepper spray to a minor in the city. It is unlawful for a minor to purchase, possess or use any pepper spray in the city. It is unlawful to sell or offer for sale any pepper spray on premises where liquor or alcoholic beverages are consumed.”

Read the Hawaii statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Idaho

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to Idaho.

Read the Idaho statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Illinois

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to Illinois, though you must be at least18 years old to purchase or possess pepper spray. Moreover, the city of Chicago has a specific ordinance that prohibits the use of pepper spray in an enclosed room (a bar or restaurant) if more than 20 people are present.

“Carries on or about his person or in any vehicle, a tear gas gun projector or bomb or any object containing noxious liquid gas or substance, other than an object containing a non-lethal noxious liquid gas or substance designed solely for personal defense carried by a person 18 years of age or older.”

Read the Illinois statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Indiana

Indiana has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Indiana.

Pepper Spray Laws in Iowa

Iowa has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Iowa.

Pepper Spray Laws in Kansas

Kansas has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Kansas.

Pepper Spray Laws in Kentucky

Kentucky has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Kentucky.

Pepper Spray Laws in Louisiana

Louisiana has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Louisiana.

Pepper Spray Laws in Maine

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to Maine, though the criminal use of disabling chemicals is a violation of the law. As with most states, the use of pepper spray must be in self-defense.

“A person is guilty of criminal use of disabling chemicals if he intentionally sprays or otherwise uses upon any other person chemical mace or any similar substance composed of a mixture of gas and chemicals which has or is designed to have a disabling effect upon human beings.”

Read the Maine statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Maryland

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to Maryland. Pepper spray is specifically outlined as a dangerous weapon, according to Maryland code § 4-101, but you also have the right to use pepper spray in self-defense. Also, a minor is prohibited from carrying pepper spray, concealed or not, between one hour after sunset and one house before sunrise.

“An individual who carries the weapon as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger, subject to the right of the court in an action arising under this section to judge the reasonableness of the carrying of the weapon, and the proper occasion for carrying it, under the evidence in the case.”

Read the Maryland statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Massachusetts

It is legal to buy, use, or possess pepper spray in Massachusetts, but there are several restrictions. It is not legal to ship human formula pepper spray to an address in Massachusetts, though animal spray can be legally shipped to the state. It is illegal to purchase or possess pepper spray if you have been convicted of a felony, a misdemeanor punishable by two years imprisonment, a violent crime, or if you have been committed to a hospital or a mental illness institution.

While a firearms identification card was previously required to possess pepper spray, it no longer is, except for purchasers between the ages of 15 and 18.

Read the Massachusetts statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Michigan

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to Michigan, but there are several restrictions. In Michigan:

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  • Pepper spray cannot be more than 35 grams of any combination of orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile and inert ingredients;
  • Pepper spray cannot be more than 18% oleoresin capsicum;
  • Pepper spray cannot contain an ultraviolet dye and not more than 18% oleoresin capsicum;
  • Minors are prohibited from purchasing pepper spray.

“If a person uses a self-defense spray or foam device during the commission of a crime to eject, release, or emit orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile or oleoresin capsicum or threatens to use a self-defense spray or foam device during the commission of a crime to temporarily or permanently disable another person, the judge who imposes sentence upon a conviction for that crime shall consider the defendant’s use or threatened use of the self-defense spray or foam device as a reason for enhancing the sentence.”

Read the Michigan statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Minnesota

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to Minnesota, though you must be 16 years old to possess pepper spray in Minnesota. An individual who is prohibited from possessing a pistol in Minnesota cannot possess pepper spray.

“A person may possess and use an authorized tear gas compound in the exercise of reasonable force in defense of the person or the person’s property only if it is propelled from an aerosol container, labeled with or accompanied by clearly written instructions as to its use and the dangers involved in its use, and dated to indicate its anticipated useful life. A person may possess and use an electronic incapacitation device in the exercise of reasonable force in defense of the person or the person’s property only if the electronic incapacitation device is labeled with or accompanied by clearly written instructions as to its use and the dangers involved in its use.”

Read the Minnesota statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Mississippi

Mississippi has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Mississippi.

Pepper Spray Laws in Missouri

Missouri has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Missouri.

“Gas gun, any gas ejection device, weapon, cartridge, container or contrivance other than a gas bomb, that is designed or adapted for the purpose of ejecting any poison gas that will cause death or serious physical injury, but not any device that ejects a repellent or temporary incapacitating substance.”

Read the Missouri statute

Pepper Spray Laws in Montana 

Montana has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Montana.

Pepper Spray Laws in Nebraska

Nebraska has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Nebraska.

Pepper Spray Laws in Nevada

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to Nevada, though there are restrictions. Minors are not allowed to possess pepper spray and the maximum container is 2 ounces.

“Tear gas includes all liquid, gaseous or solid substances intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispersed in the air. The term does not include a liquid, gaseous or solid substance whose active ingredient is composed of natural substances or products derived from natural substances which cause no permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispersed in the air.”

Read the Nevada statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to New Hampshire.

Pepper Spray Laws in New Jersey

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to New Jersey, though there are restrictions. You must be at least 18 years old to possess pepper spray. Possession by a convicted felon is prohibited. The device must be pocket-sized and cannot release more than 3/4 of an ounce of pepper spray.

“Nothing shall be construed to prevent any person who is 18 years of age or older and who has not been convicted of a felony, from possession for the purpose of personal self-defense of one pocket-sized device which contains and releases not more than three-quarters of an ounce of chemical substance not ordinarily capable of lethal use or of inflicting serious bodily injury, but rather, is intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or disability through being vaporized or otherwise dispensed in the air.

Any person in possession of any device in violation of this subsection shall be deemed and adjudged to be a disorderly person, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100.00.”

Read the New Jersey statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in New Mexico

New Mexico has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to New Mexico.

Pepper Spray Laws in New York

It is legal to buy, use, or possess pepper spray in New York, but there are several restrictions. In New York:

  • It is not legal to ship human formula pepper spray to an address in New York, though animal spray can be legally shipped to the state;
  • You must be at least 18 years old to possess pepper spray;
  • The pepper spray container must be pocket sized;
  • You can purchase a maximum of two devices during a single transaction;
  • Those who have been convicted of a felony or assault are prohibited from possessing pepper spray.

“Self-defense spray device shall mean a pocket sized spray device which contains and releases a chemical or organic substance which is intended to produce temporary physical discomfort or disability through being vaporized or otherwise dispensed in the air or any like device containing tear gas, pepper or similar disabling agent.”

Read the New York statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in North Carolina

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to North Carolina, though there are restrictions. You cannot carry a pepper spray container that is larger than 5 ounces.

“It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or association to possess, use, store, sell, or transport within the State of North Carolina, any form of that type of gas generally known as tear gas, or any container or device for holding or releasing that gas; except this section does not apply to the possession, use, storage, sale or transportation of that gas or any container or device for holding or releasing that gas.”

Read the North Carolina statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in North Dakota

North Dakota has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to North Dakota.

“Dangerous weapon does not include a spray or aerosol containing CS, also known as ortho-chlorobenzamalonitrile; CN, also known as alpha-chloroacetophenone; or other irritating agent intended for use in the defense of an individual, nor does the term include a device that uses voltage for the defense of an individual, unless the device uses a projectile and voltage or the device uses a projectile and may be used to apply multiple applications of voltage during a single incident, then the term includes the device for an individual who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under this title.”

Read the North Dakota statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in Ohio

Ohio has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Ohio.

Pepper Spray Laws in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Oklahoma.

Pepper Spray Laws in Oregon

Oregon has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Oregon.

Pepper Spray Laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Pennsylvania.

“The chemical mace or any similar substance shall not be considered as lethal weapons for the purposes of this act.”

Read the Pennsylvania statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in Rhode Island

Rhode Island has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray, though you have to be at least 18 years old to possess pepper spray.

“Any person 18 years of age or over may carry on his or her person and use, unless otherwise prohibited by law, any non-lethal noxious substance or liquid for his or her protection or the protection of others.”

Read the Rhode Island statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in South Carolina

South Carolina has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to South Carolina.

Pepper Spray Laws in South Dakota

South Dakota has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to South Dakota.

Pepper Spray Laws in Tennessee

Tennessee has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Tennessee.

Pepper Spray Laws in Texas

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to Texas, though state law says it must be a “small chemical dispenser.”

“Chemical dispensing device means a device, other than a small chemical dispenser sold commercially for personal protection, that is designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of dispensing a substance capable of causing an adverse psychological or physiological effect on a human being.”

Read the Texas statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in Utah

Utah has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Utah.

Pepper Spray Laws in Vermont

Vermont has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Vermont.

Pepper Spray Laws in Virginia

Virginia has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Virginia.

“If any person maliciously release or cause or procure to be released in any private home, place of business or place of public gathering any tear gas, mustard gas, phosgene gas or other noxious or nauseating gases or mixtures of chemicals designed to, and capable of, producing vile or injurious or nauseating odors or gases, and bodily injury results to any person from such gas or odor, the offending person shall be guilty of a felony.”

Read the Virginia statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in Washington

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to Washington, though you must be at least 18 years old to purchase or possess pepper spray. With permission from a parent, you can purchase or possess pepper spray at 14 years old in Washington.

“It is unlawful for a person under eighteen years old, unless the person is at least fourteen years old and has the permission of a parent or guardian to do so, to purchase or possess a personal protection spray device. A violation of this subsection is a misdemeanor.”

Read the Washington statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in West Virginia

West Virginia has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to West Virginia.

Pepper Spray Laws in Wisconsin

It is legal to buy, use, possess, or ship pepper spray to Wisconsin, though there are several restrictions. In Wisconsin:

  • Pepper spray containers must be less than 2 ounces;
  • Pepper spray must be 10% of less oleoresin capsicum (OC);
  • Pepper spray cannot be disguised or camouflaged;
  • You must be at least 18 years old to purchase or possess pepper spray, though there is an exemption for minors with parental permission.

In 2013, the state of Wisconsin updated and expanded pepper spray regulations.

“The Act removes the limitation that pepper spray be displayed only behind a sales counter, and eliminates the requirement for a highlighted caution statement on its packaging. The Act maintains the statutory requirement for pepper spray to be properly labeled and to be sold with written safety instructions. The Act removes the requirements for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to promulgate specific rules governing pepper spray standards, including percentage of active ingredients, range of spray, weight, and safety packaging. The Act prohibits DOJ from promulgating or enforcing such rules.”

Read the Wisconsin statute here

Pepper Spray Laws in Wyoming

Wyoming has no laws that prohibit individuals from carrying or using pepper spray. It is legal to buy, carry, use, or ship to Wyoming.

Another important consideration with pepper spray laws is airline travel. As you travel via an airplane there are TSA regulations you must follow. One 4 ounce container of pepper spray is permitted in checked baggage provided it is equipped with a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge. It is not permitted in carry-on bags.

This guideline gives you a better understanding of pepper spray laws throughout the country to help ensure you are within the law as you travel. Fortunately, for most adults without a criminal record, pepper spray is legal to possess, buy, and use (for self-defense purposes) regardless of the state you are in.

Along with the low cost and ease of use, this makes pepper spray a great non-lethal, self-defense option.

M.D. Creekmore

I've been interested in firearms topics for over 25 years. I’m the author of four books that you can find here. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about firearms, tactics, and concealed carry topics through training and first-hand experience and now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.