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This Is the Hardest Place in America to Buy Fireworks

2 minute read

Looking to buy fireworks ahead of the Fourth of July holiday? Good luck if you live in Provincetown, Mass.

Massachusetts’ ban on firework sales means at least a four-hour roundtrip drive down from the tip of Cape Cod to Rhode Island, the closest state that permits the pyrotechnics.

For those trying to catch a bit of the fireworks action on the holiday, the assortment of different laws on fireworks sales from state to state mean vastly different experiences in the way people purchase and view fireworks.

Phantom Fireworks, one of America’s largest consumer fireworks companies, operates stores in 16 states. Company Vice President William Weimer describes them as “showrooms” that resemble Walgreens drug stores complete with families roaming the aisles with shopping carts casually pulling fireworks options from the shelves and asking associates for advice.

“I don’t care how old you are, what you do for a living what religion you are, what color you are,” Weimer says. “You walk into a store, your face lights up, and you become a kid again.”

In other states, like California, most fireworks are sold through partnerships with local charities like churches and little leagues, according to Weimer. California state law prohibits for-profit companies from retailing fireworks.

Massachusetts, New York, Delaware, and New Jersey ban consumer fireworks outright. Despite the ban, even in Provincetown, it seems that people find ways to get their hands on fireworks. Police in the town of 3,000 responded to several complaints about the pyrotechnics during the Fourth of July season last year.

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Write to Justin Worland at justin.worland@time.com