In February, when we ran a story about a kooky family-runbusiness that was selling faux zombie insurance, I was fairly certain it wastongue in cheek. Now I'm not so certain — and under thecircumstances, the term “tongue in cheek” is making me uneasy.

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In case you've been away for awhile, this week a story wentviral about a guy in Miami who was shot and killed by policewhile he was in the act of chewing off a homeless man's face. By any accounts thestory is horrific, but the particulars of the case make itespecially chilling — especially that after having warning shotsfired at him by the cops, the guy looked up, growled, and kept onchewing.

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Turns out the assailant was probably high on the syntheticstreet drug known as “bath salts” at the time of the assault. And that's a storyunto itself — because on the face of it, bath salts are technicallylegal, which it would seem could open up a big can of liability foran unsuspecting purveyor.

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Because believe it or not, a highly addictive drug thatencompasses all the properties of meth and LSD in many states canbe simply bought over the counter at a head shop, conveniencestore, smoke shops, truck stops or over the Internet.

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When news of bath salts first hit the media last year, somepeople (including me) thought idiots were getting high onthe stuff you buy from Bath & Body Works (heck, we triedsmoking banana peels in the '70s, too). But the bath saltsstreet drug is actually a combination of synthetic drugs often madefrom mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), which are legal. Bathsalt dealers get around the law by packaging the drug as actualcosmetic bath salts or as plant food, then labeling it “notfor human consumption.”

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Unlike cookingmeth, it doesn't seem as if formulating bath salts couldend up in an explosion, or the long-term pollution of a propertywhere it's made. However, if an unwitting (or witting)store is selling the stuff, I'd think there'd be a huge liabilityconcern.

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As of last November, the drugs used to make bath salts werebanned in 31 states. And last year the federal government put ayear-long ban on the drugs; that law expired in March.

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One thing is clear: bath salts can induce extreme paranoia, makeusers violent and are highly addictive. They're also supposedlyundetectable by drug tests, which could make them attractive tosome users.

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I'm not sure if the spreading use of this drug will usher in“zombie apocalypse” behavior in users, but if I was an insuranceagent placing coverage for convenience stores or smoke shops, itwould scare the hell out of me to think they might be selling thisstuff — whether it's legal or not.

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