Pepper Spray Laws – State-By-State and Traveling Restrictions

Due to it’s potential for use as a weapon, pepper spray is banned in some countries, such as Canada and the UK, but is legal in America. There are restrictions for carrying pepper spray while traveling by air, especially when the destination is a foreign country.

In most states, pepper spray can be bought in stores and possession is legal for anyone over 18. Some states don’t have an age requirement for purchasing pepper spray. Other states have enacted legislation that restricts the use of pepper spray, often referred to as self-defense spray.

State Restrictions

Here is a rundown of laws regarding possession of pepper spray in specific states:

state laws map of pepper spray in usa

  • California: The aerosol pepper spray in each canister cannot weigh more than 2.5 ounces.
  • Massachusetts: New legislation, effective July 1, 2014, allows the purchase of pepper spray without a firearms identification card.
  • Michigan: “Reasonable use” of a limited amount of pepper spray is allowed for reasons of personal or property protection in circumstances justifying the use of physical force.
  • New York: Must be bought in person at a pharmacy or from a licensed firearm seller who is required to keep a record of purchases. Anyone over 18 can possess pepper spray. Use against a public official performing official duties is a class-E felony.
  • New Jersey: Possession is limited to no more than 3/4 of an ounce of chemical substance and can only be carried by non-felons 18 or older.
  • Washington: Possession is legal for persons over 14 who have their legal guardian’s consent. Anyone over 18 can carry pepper spray.
  • Wisconsin: Canisters of pepper spray must have a safety feature to prevent accidental discharge, are limited in their range and amount per container, and cannot be camouflaged (for instance, concealed from view in fake cell phones or lipstick tubes). There are specific labeling requirements and the packaging must be tamper-proof.

The amount of product per canister is restricted in all states, and you can be arrested or fined if you possess more than the legal quantity of pepper spray. Because regulations regarding pepper spray vary by state, it is important to know the legalities of possession before buying a spray canister, especially if you are traveling or moving to another state.

Restrictions on Traveling with Pepper Spray

For safety reasons, there are restrictions on carrying pepper spray when traveling by air. Release of the chemical in an airplane cabin can be detrimental to other passengers and the crew. Therefore, pepper spray canisters cannot be brought on board, even in carry-on luggage.

One small canister (4 fl. oz. or smaller) is allowed in checked luggage, per the United States Department of Transportation, as it is understood that many people consider pepper spray to be necessary for their personal safety needs. The canister must have a safety latch or cap to prevent accidental discharge, and must be packed in a protective case. The case should be arranged in a safe manner so that the spray will not be discharged in the event that the checked baggage is dropped or damaged while handled by airline personnel. When traveling outside the United States, understand that possession of pepper spray may be forbidden in the country where you are flying.

Because pepper spray is considered a to be a defense device and can incapacitate another human or animal, it is important to understand the regulations for buying and possessing a canister of the chemical. Necessary use of the pepper spray is unpredictable, and users must be aware of the restrictions by state, otherwise the consequences of using the spray as a weapon may result in legal trouble for wrongful purchase or possession.