What you need to know about Ohio’s new consumer fireworks law–aside from the fact that it actually makes sense…

If there is one thing I’ve learned during my three decades as an attorney, it’s that laws don’t always make sense. As an example, I offer into evidence, the Ohio statute that governed the purchase and use of consumer-grade fireworks by private citizens from 2008 until 2022. During that time, you or I could walk into a licensed fireworks dealer on July 4, buy a carload of what are known as 1.4G fireworks, and then swear we were going to transport our arsenal out of state within 48 hours because it was illegal to discharge them within the state.

Attorney David Betras
BKM Managing Partner David Betras

This law was ridiculous for two reasons: first, it forced Ohioans who wanted to celebrate Independence Day by firing off some fireworks in their backyard to lie and commit a crime which was more than a little ironic and absolutely un-American, and, second, it was, for all intents and purposes, unenforceable, a fact underscored by the billions of dollars in consumer pyrotechnics that lit up Ohio’s night skies and scared Ohio’s dogs each and every Fourth—prohibition or no prohibition.

After numerous attempts to erase the law and government-mandated ruse from the books, the fine folks who inhabit the Ohio House and Senate passed HB 172 by overwhelming margins on November 4, 2021. One provision of the bill which became effective on July 1, 2022 eliminated the requirement that Ohioans hightail it out of the state to demonstrate their patriotism. As a result, we are now free to shoot off roman candles, skyrockets, sparking wheels, seven-shot Beastlys, and 10-ten shot Cherry Bombers from the comfort of our homes.

In addition to permitting the use of consumer fireworks within Ohio’s borders, HB 172 also established regulations for doing so—you know rules we didn’t need when we were buying 36-shot China Dragons here and shooting them off in, I guess Pennsylvania or West Virginia. Because the law is relatively new, and the Fourth of July is rapidly approaching I thought it would be beneficial to review the rules:

Let’s start with when we can fire away:

From 4 PM to 11 PM on:

  • From 4 PM to 11 PM on July 3, 4, and 5, and the Friday, Saturday and Sunday immediately before and after the 4th.
  • From 4 PM to 11 PM on Memorial and Labor Day weekends
  • From 4 PM to 11:59 PM on New Year’s Eve and 12 AM to 1:00 AM and 4 PM to 11 PM New Year’s Day
  • From 4 PM to 11 PM on Chinese New Year
  • From 4 PM to 11 PM on Cinco de Mayo
  • From 4 PM to 11 PM on Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights which falls on November 12 this year.
  • From 4 PM to 11 PM on Juneteenth.

Next let’s talk about where.  You can light up the night from your own property or another person’s if the owner has given you express permission. Oh, and you can’t fire them off indoors, so no shooting Roman Candles at your siblings or friends if you’re in the kitchen or living room. You also may not discharge fireworks within 150 feet of property housing livestock unless the owner of the property is given five days’ notice. I guess that will give the livestock owner time to sedate the animals. 

Who is important. No one under the age of 18 and no person under the influence of any intoxicating liquor, beer, or controlled substance may discharge fireworks.

Finally, let’s not forget that fireworks can be dangerous if they are mishandled or used carelessly. According to a report issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission 11,500 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospitals in 2021. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the injuries occurred between June 18 and July 18. To make sure your holiday isn’t marred by an accident, please follow these safety tips as you celebrate America’s 257th birthday:

  • Never allow young children to handle fireworks.
  • Anyone using fireworks or standing nearby should wear protective eyewear.
  • Never hold lit fireworks in your hands.
  • Only use fireworks away from people, houses, and flammable material.
  • Do not try to re-light or handle malfunctioning fireworks.
  • Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding.
  • Keep water or a fire extinguisher nearby to fully douse fireworks that don’t discharge or in case of fire.

Thanks for taking the time to check out this week’s blog and Happy Fourth to you all.