20 Crazy Things You Won’t Believe Are Legal in the U.S.

Image: Peter O’Connor

Drinking and driving is illegal nationwide, right? And you wouldn’t get away with carrying around a flamethrower or keeping a brown bear, would you? Well, depending on where you live, you would, actually. There are many strange things that remain legal in this vast, weird country of ours. Here are 20 of the most surprising.

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20. Drinking before reaching 21

Many of us remember – or perhaps not – our 21st birthday for being the first time we could legally drink alcohol. But it’s actually legal in 45 states to consume alcohol before 21, at least in specific circumstances. If you’re at home with your parents, for instance, 29 states say it’s okay to drink liquor.

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19. Bestiality

Surely it’s common sense that making the beast with two backs with, well, a beast would be a crime. Shockingly, though, bestiality is permitted – though surely frowned upon – in 18 states, including New Jersey, Ohio and Kentucky.

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18. Driving a tank

It’s fine to drive a military tank in the U.S. – you just need the cash to obtain one. You must also deactivate the gun and make sure the vehicle has rear-view mirrors – and quite possibly a rotating warning light. Once this is done you’re pretty much good to go.

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17. Owning a tiger


Five states – Alabama, North Carolina and Nevada among them – don’t have exotic-animal laws, meaning inhabitants are theoretically free to own a tiger, despite it obviously being cruel. In 14 others, meanwhile, you merely need a permit to take in this ferociously strong animal as a pet.

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16. Flamethrowers

The only states to have banned the planet’s first readily available flamethrower are California and Maryland. The XM42, which uses 87-octane gasoline, shoots flames up to 25 feet long. Amazingly, you don’t even need a background check to buy one.


15. Grenade launchers


So long as it’s registered and you’ve passed the background check, you’re free to own a military-grade grenade launcher. There are, however, restrictions on what you can fire from it – so you’ll have to settle for a few flares rather than smashing your front yard to smithereens.


14. Corporal punishment

It sounds crazy, but in 19 states – most of which are Southern – school teachers are permitted to hit their students. They can use a paddle, their hands or rulers to discipline students by striking them on the upper thighs or backside. Ouch.

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13. Firing a missile


If you’re a South Carolina resident you can ask the Department of Commerce for permission to launch a missile. That’s right, a missile. So if your Fourth of July fireworks aren’t doing the trick then an actual missile is sure to spice up your annual picnic.

12. Revenge porn

While many states have taken steps to address online harassment issues, only 28 have specific laws against revenge porn. If your former partner lives in Indiana or Kentucky, for example, they can effectively do what they like with those racy photos of you.


11. Owning a katana


Ever had the urge to act out a Tarantino movie? Well, you’ll be happy to know that owning a samurai sword is perfectly legit. If you like to fix your dinner while dressed like a ninja, this lethal weapon could come in handy for slicing and dicing.

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10. Marrying your cousin

Jerry Lee Lewis did it – and you can too if you live in one of the 11 states, including Vermont, New York and Rhode Island, where it’s legal to marry your first cousin. Utah also allows it, but only if the cousins are at least 65.

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9. Drinking and driving


You can’t be over the legal limit and get behind the wheel, but in some states you can have an open beer in the car without being punished. In Mississippi it’s even legal to drink alcohol while driving.

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8. Fire someone for being gay

It’s hard to believe that, in 2016, people in 28 states can be fired for being homosexual or transgender. In Texas, Florida and Indiana you can marry your same-sex partner, but your boss can still fire you simply because of your sexuality.

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7. Counting cards


It’s a special – and highly sneaky – skill that may result in a casino tossing you into the street and barring you for life. But that’s all said casino can do, because counting cards isn’t illegal, even in Las Vegas.

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6. Driving barefoot

Yep, it’s totally okay to hit the gas with a shoeless foot in all 50 states. However, if you’re involved in an accident that appears to have been caused by your lack of footwear, you could be held liable.


5. Having a pet brown bear


They’re soft, cuddly and can tear you limb from limb in a matter of seconds. Be that as it may – and disregarding the fact that it’s obviously cruel – it’s legal to own a brown bear in nine states, including Alabama, Delaware and Nevada.

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4. Going topless in public

Aside from in a few local places, it’s legal for women to walk down the street topless, though modesty somewhat limits this right being exercised. In Utah, Tennessee and Indiana, however, ladies must keep their top halves covered.

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3. Eating roadkill


It doesn’t sound very appetizing, but if you wish to scrape up that squished squirrel and serve it for tonight’s dinner, the police can’t stop you. Washington, Texas and California are among the handful of states that prohibit eating roadkill, apparently over fears that it could encourage poaching.

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2. Wearing a spaghetti strainer in a license photo

A handful of members from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster have fought for the right to wear pasta strainers on their heads in their license photos, with the “Pastafarians” claiming that it’s a religious garment. They won the right, too, which has led to some brilliant licenses.

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1. Owning a piranha


It’s difficult to imagine why you’d want to own a lethal fanged fish, but it’s legal to do so in half the states in the country. Many aquarium owners have red-bellied piranha, which can’t be kept in pairs in case they tear each other apart. So cute.