With ever-changing laws, rules, and regulations, it can feel impossible to know where fireworks are legal—and illegal. That’s why we’ve put together this essential list of what, where, and why fireworks may be illegal. Read on and stay safe!
Illegal Fireworks: What, Where & Why?
So you want to purchase and use fireworks? We don’t blame you! But staying compliant with state and local laws is key. Laws do vary by state, city, county, and more, so always check with your local town hall or city hall for all the specifics. In the meantime, we’ve gathered all the need-to-know info on fireworks laws to keep you safe and having fun.
Why are Fireworks Illegal?
Well...the question is complicated.
Some heavy-duty fireworks like M-80s and Cherry Bombs are completely illegal in the U.S. because of the high level of explosive materials they contain.
In some states, consumer fireworks are illegal because they want only professionals handling displays and shows.
In other states, like California, non-Safe and Safe fireworks are illegal because they pose an increased risk of wildfires. Other states ban them because of the risk of injury or property damage.
It all depends on the specific state. And it’s important to note that laws can and do often change. (Case in point: At the moment, Ohio is handling legislation to potentially make more fireworks legal, but it’s been a battle between the different state government branches.)
What States are Fireworks Illegal In?
Yep...this one is complicated too.
Completely Illegal: As of 2021, Massachusetts is the only state that completely bans all consumer fireworks, although it’s legal for professionals to use them in approved displays.
Mostly Illegal: In Illinois, Ohio, and Vermont it’s legal to use wire or wood stick sparklers, snappers, snakes, and other novelty items. In Ohio there are no sales restrictions on those items, but there are sales restrictions in Illinois and Vermont.
Counties Get to Decide if It’s Legal:In Hawaii, Nevada, and Wyoming, each county is allowed to establish their own fireworks regulations, meaning laws can easily change from town to town.
Safe and Sane Fireworks are Legal: “Safe and Sane” fireworks (also known as non-aerial and non-explosive consumer fireworks) like sparklers, fountains, and other novelties are:
- Legal in 15 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin
- Legal in the District of Columbia
- Mostly legal Maryland (some counties do have restrictions)
Mostly Legal: Most or all consumer fireworks are legal to purchase in 28 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia.
Where is Purchasing Fireworks Illegal?
This also varies by state.
Some states have specific buying and selling periods (usually centered around the Fourth of July and Christmas/New Year’s) where it’s legal for stores and authorized retailers to sell fireworks, and consumers to purchase fireworks in person.
Other states allow consumers to buy fireworks, but with stipulations around how long the fireworks can be kept in the state, or where they must be transported for use.
Still others allow online fireworks purchases year-round, but have rules against in-person purchasing or defined buying and selling periods for brick-and-mortar and authorized retailers.
This can also vary by country, city, and town, so it’s important to check with your local town hall, city hall, or fire station to understand exactly when, where, and how you may be able to purchase fireworks.
What Ages are Legally Allowed to Purchase Fireworks?
In some states, consumers as young as 12 can legally purchase fireworks, while in others consumers have to be 21. Most states have some restrictions on purchasers under the age of 18.
Ages 12-15: There are 6 that allow consumers between the ages of 12-15 to purchase fireworks legally
- 12 Years Old: Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and Oklahoma
- 14 Years Old: Missouri (unless accompanied by a parent/guardian)
- 15 Years Old: Louisiana
Ages 16-17: 17 States allow consumers between the ages of 16-18 to purchase fireworks legally
- 16 Years Old: Alabama (unless accompanied by an adult), Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
- Curiously purchasers in Tennessee can be 16, or 17....with ID.
Ages 18-21: The majority of states (25, to be precise) allow consumers between the ages of 18-21+ to purchase fireworks legally
- 18 Years Old: Alaska, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia
- 21 Years Old: Maine and New Hampshire
We know keeping track of the legalities can be hard. Remember to ask the right local agencies for help! And once you know the laws, stock up on your favorite fireworks with Red Apple for fun, safe, and legal enjoyment!