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Is Pepper Spray Legal in Colorado? (Legally Explained in 2024)

Pepper spray is legal to purchase and possess in Colorado for self-defense purposes. However, there are restrictions on the size and concentration of the pepper spray.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What is Pepper Spray, and is it Dangerous?

Pepper spray contains capsaicin, an inflammatory compound that causes burning, pain, and tears when it contacts a person's eyes. While symptoms typically resolve within 30 minutes, some individuals may experience more severe effects.

Commercially available for personal protection against attackers, pepper spray is also used by law enforcement agencies in the United States for policing, crowd control, and suppress protests and demonstrations, a practice that remains controversial. It is classified as a lacrimator, stimulating tear production in the eyes, and is commonly found in aerosol or spray bottle form.

"The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, the same chemical that adds the characteristic heat to chili peppers. Pepper spray contains much higher concentrations of capsaicin than chili peppers."

According to Medical News Today, pepper spray ranks high on the Scoville heat units (SHU) scale, which measures the "heat" of peppers. For comparison, a bell pepper rates 0 SHU, while a jalapeño scores around 2,500–5,000 SHU. Law enforcement-grade pepper spray typically measures between 500,000 and 2 million SHU, with some brands reaching 5.3 million SHU [1].

Colorado Pepper Spray Laws

According to Legal Beagle, in Colorado, pepper spray is recognized as a self-defense tool rather than a weapon, allowing its use for defense purposes [2].

Unlike some states, Colorado does not have specific regulations regarding the type or quantity of pepper spray that can be carried, as indicated by Peacemaker pepper spray products and MIS Technologies.

However, it is the buyer's responsibility to know the laws and regulations, so it is recommended that individuals check the laws frequently to avoid getting sued, incarcerated or subjected to fines.

    • Self-Defense: Pepper spray can be used by Colorado residents facing threats from humans or animals as a non-lethal self-defense measure, not classified as a weapon.
    • Identification: There is no requirement to inform an attacker before using pepper spray for self-defense, though some believe that warning might deter an attack.
    • Airlines and Government Buildings: Pepper spray is prohibited on commercial flights and in Colorado state and local government buildings, which typically have security checkpoints. Violating these restrictions is considered a federal offense.

Injuries from Pepper Spray Use: Study

An observational study by NIH, published in 2016 [3] looked at injuries from pepper spray when used for self-defense purposes. For the study, the researchers analyzed epidemiologic and clinical characteristics, treatment received, and clinical course in cases of pepper spray injury treated in the chemical decontamination area of an emergency department over a 5-year period.

We conclude that pepper sprays are being used as an aid to self defense in muggings in our community, the researchers concluded. Decontamination measures have priority as they alleviate symptoms and prevent long-lasting effects.

Fifteen patients, with a mean age of 25 (SD 8.3) years, were part of the study. Thirteen were male, and 53% were foreign-born. All incidents involving pepper spray occurred during muggings, predominantly in the early morning hours (66.7% between 4:30 and 6:30 AM). In 60% of the events, two or more attackers were involved. Seventy-three percent of the attacks occurred on the street, and the median time taken to reach the emergency department was 30 minutes.

Injuries were primarily to the face and eyes, with symptoms including itching, irritation, burning, and pain. Injuries to the face and eyes were common, with symptoms including itching, irritation, burning, and pain. Upon arrival, patients received immediate treatment (mean delay, 3 minutes) with hypertonic saline, an amphoteric surfactant, and a chelating agent in 80% of cases.

There was a substantial improvement, as mean pain scale scores decreased from 7.2 on admission to 3 on discharge (P=.009). Patients spent an average of 40 minutes in the treatment area. Eleven patients required further care from an ophthalmologist and topical medication for symptoms. All outcomes were favorable, with no complications in any of the cases.

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