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Could fireworks become legal in Ohio?

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The Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would legalize the discharge of fireworks by 2020. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

You might not (legally) be letting off fireworks at your Independence Day BBQ next year, but there’s legislation that could let you do so in just a few years. Not everyone likes that idea.

The Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would legalize the discharge of fireworks by 2020.

House Bill 226 allows Ohioans to set off consumer-grade fireworks with the permission of the property owner and while not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The bill requires distributors to include safety information and allows local governments to restrict when fireworks are discharged.

Previously, the sale of consumer-grade fireworks to non-minors from a licensed manufacturer was legal only if an affidavit was signed agreeing to transport the fireworks out of Ohio within 48 hours. The discharge of fireworks without proper licensing was illegal.

This bill would increase the price of fireworks starting Jan. 1, 2021 with a 4 percent fee on fireworks. The fee is expected to generate $1.5 million in revenue, which would fund firefighter programs and firework regulation.  

Forty-four states currently allow some or all types of fireworks. Ohio, Illinois and Vermont only permit wire or wood stick sparklers and novelty items to be set off in-state. Delaware and Massachusetts ban all consumer fireworks.

The bill passed through the House of Representatives in a 77-12 vote, with opposition from the Children’s Hospital Association, Prevent Blindness Ohio and the Ohio State Medical Association.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital pediatrician Sarah Denny testified against House Bill 226 last June..

“Every year, we see news reports across the state of injuries to children and damage to property resulting from fireworks discharge,” Denny said in her testimony. “Innocent bystanders and children have rights as well, and no one should be put at risk of injury simply because they are near another individual who is discharging consumer fireworks.”

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that in 2015, fireworks were responsible for 11,900 emergency room visits. For those visits, 26 percent were children younger than 15 and 4,998 were younger than 20.

Close to half of the individuals injured by fireworks were not directly involved with setting off the fireworks.

“Fireworks are inherently dangerous and we should consider what kind of statement we will make as a state by repealing the consumer fireworks ban,” Denny said.

The bill now heads to the Ohio Senate for consideration and would fully legalize fireworks by July 2020 if it passes the Senate and is signed by Gov. John Kasich.

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