Vermont Laws on the Use of Pepper Spray


Pepper spray is a nonlethal weapon used for self-defense. The defense spray gets its name from its main ingredient, oleoresin capsicum, which is extracted from hot chili peppers. It is effective for self-defense protection, because it causes an intense burning sensation when sprayed at the attacker's eyes, nose or mouth. Pepper spray works quickly, thus giving the victim enough time to get away.

Although pepper spray is legal in all U.S. states for self-protection, it is still classified as a weapon. As such, some states have certain restrictions.

Sales Restrictions

  • Vermont is among only a handful of states that does not have any laws regulating, restrictin, or prohibiting the sale of any type of aerosol spray used as a self-defense weapon. Vermont's statutes make no mention of sales restrictions for pepper spray.

    Because Vermont does not restrict pepper-spray sales, residents can purchase pepper spray online, at a licensed firearms retail store or at any other business that sells the product. In addition, no specific Vermont law restricts the age of the buyer.

Possession Restrictions

  • In many U.S. states, the legal age to carry and possess pepper spray is 18 and older. However, Vermont state law makes no mention about age with regard to pepper-spray possession. Most companies that sell pepper spray recommend that it only be purchased by someone 18 and older.

    Vermont does not require a special permit to carry pepper spray, but possession of pepper spray could result in criminal action in some situations. For example, using pepper spray in situations that are nonthreatening could be considered a crime in Vermont.

    Vermont's statute for carrying dangerous weapons calls for imprisonment, a fine or both if a person carries a dangerous or deadly weapon with the intent of injuring someone else. Vermont law also requires someone carrying pepper spray into a state institution or its grounds to obtain prior approval from the warden or superintendent of the institution.

    Although no pepper-spray-possession restrictions exist in Vermont, residents must still adhere to pepper-spray laws when traveling or visiting other states. For example, it is a federal crime to carry on pepper spray on a commercial airplane. Also, certain federal and state buildings prohibit visitors from carrying pepper spray.

Container Size Restrictions

  • Vermont has no state law dictating the size of a pepper-spray container. The state also has no legal requirements for the container's labeling. Unlike some states, Vermont does not require the container to hold a limited amount of pepper spray.

    Pepper spray is sold in a variety of different container sizes. Most pepper-spray containers are small enough to fit into a person's pocket or purse so it can be carried at all times. Some pepper sprays are incorporated into key chains or belt holsters. Others come in containers shaped like pens, pagers or lipstick cases.

Formulation Restrictions

  • No state laws in Vermont dictate the concentration of pepper sprays. The intensity of heat in pepper sprays is measured using a Scoville heat-unit scale, which measures the intensity of hot peppers. Pepper sprays that have an oleoresin capsicum concentration between 1,500,000 and 3,000,000 Scoville heat units can cause permanent tissue damage. As a result, some states have restrictions on the strength of the formula in pepper-spray containers.

    Generally, the formulation for pepper spray used by consumers for self-defense is much less than that used by law-enforcement officials. Most consumer pepper sprays have a maximum oleoresin capsicum concentration of 10 percent.

Restrictions on Repellent Pepper Sprays

  • Some pepper sprays are designed to work as animal repellents. In Vermont, bear sprays and dog sprays for vicious dogs are legal. The state also permits online sales and shipping of animal repellents.


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