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July 04, 2018

Pepper Spray Laws: What You Can & Can't Have in Your State


Pepper spray is a popular self-defense tool for joggers, hikers, and people who want to stay safe after dark. While it’s legal to carry pepper spray in the United States, some states have regulations regarding the way canisters can be purchased and used. If you have questions about pepper spray self-defense laws, read on to find out what you can and can’t have. 

Understanding Pepper Spray Regulations

Pepper spray is sometimes confused with tear gas, which had traditionally been used in Mace and is now outlawed in most places. Tear gas contains CN gas (phenacyl chloride), which is not as effective on people who are under the influence and is more toxic in general. These days, brands that used to include CN gas in their products use oleoresin capsicum (often called OC) instead, which is the active ingredient in all pepper spray.

While tear gas is illegal to carry, pepper spray is legal in all 50 states. 

Pepper spray serves as an inflammatory agent. When hit with pepper spray, the eyes, nose, and throat of the target will become extremely irritated. The main benefit of pepper spray is that the eyes involuntarily close and the target is temporarily blinded. The agent is legal largely because it wears off after about 30 minutes and is considered non-lethal.

Even though pepper spray is legal, your state may have some regulations around its sale and use. For instance:

  • CA pepper spray laws dictate that the weight of a pepper spray canister can be no heavier than 2.5 ounces.

  • In New York, pepper spray can only be sold in pharmacies and by licensed firearm dealers.

  • In Michigan, the concentration of OC in a canister of pepper spray is limited to 10%.

You should check with local law enforcement or legislators if you are uncertain about the pepper spray laws in your area. 

Pepper Spray vs. Animal Spray

Pepper spray and animal repellant spray share a lot of similarities in their make-up, but they are regulated differently. While animal spray also uses OC, it contains the inflammatory agent in a less potent form. Because animals have a much stronger sense of smell, they can be deterred from approaching with a spray that is less powerful than what we typically use for humans. In other words, pepper spray for animals may not be enough to thwart a human attack, so they are not interchangeable. 

Due to their lower levels of OC, animal repellant is sold more leniently than pepper spray for humans. Even in states where pepper spray regulations exist, people can purchase animal sprays online without an issue. You can also find animal repellents in stores that sell camping gear and other outdoor equipment.

Safely Using Pepper Spray

States don’t require training for the use of pepper spray, but you should still practice. While sprays are some of the most popular devices for joggers – they only help if you’re able to grab and maneuver your pepper spray quickly. Leaving the pepper spray disarmed, get used to grabbing the canister and turning off any safety locks with one hand. Closing your eyes will help you get to know the canister by feel. You should always aim for the target’s eyes when you spray. 

Pepper spray canisters are an effective and popular way to stay safe on the go. They are some of the bestselling self-defense products for runners’ protection at The Home Security Superstore, and many of our models are small enough to fit on a keychain for easy transportation. If you still have questions about how to choose the right pepper spray for your needs, contact us today. 



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