Bath Salts In Miami: Unscientific Field Trip Suggests Drugs Not As Readily Available As Advertised

Synthetic drugs -- especially an amphetamine cocktail known as "bath salts" -- have been increasingly on the nation's radar, especially after last month's bizarre face-eating attack made international headlines.

Enter the hysteria: local bans proposed, flyers distributed, incidents publicized and pearls clutched. While police and health officials warn that extreme violence is one possible side effect, others have decried how readily available the substances are: Neither bath salts nor its potent cousin, synthetic marijuana, are outlawed by the federal government, although some of the chemicals used to make them have been banned. In fact, as articles everywhere note (e.g., "Drugs sold as bath salts are easy to buy," announced CNN), both substances can typically be bought not only on the street but at gas stations, convenience stores and head shops, slapped with legally necessary but clearly ignored "Not For Human Consumption" labels.

Ever curious, HuffPost set out north from our top-secret midtown offices to test just how easily accessible bath salts are locally in the wake of all the bad publicity. Road trip!

Westar gas station
N. Miami Avenue and 62nd St.
Bath salts: None
Alternative: Three packages of synthetic marijuana were taped to the station's kiosk, with prices scrawled in silver marker; the teller did not ask for ID to purchase 10 grams of Mad Hatter "incense."
Purchased: $20 package of Cloud 9.

Valero gas station
N. Miami Avenue and 79th St.
Bath salts: None
Alternative: None. It was clear this place was the type that only stocks cigarettes and phone cards. There wasn't even a hint of erectile dysfunction aids.

Amerika gas station
N. Miami Avenue and 119th St.
Bath salts: None
Alternative: None. Even though there was a sign stating it was a cash-only business, HuffPost asked if the station took cards to get a better look behind the counter. No sign of anything nefarious.

Kwik Stop Food Store
N. Miami Avenue and 119th St.
Bath salts: None
Alternative: None. Purchased a Coke to get a better look behind the counter. Like the gas stations, all that was on offer was cigarettes, condoms, phone cards and pepper spray.

UGas gas station
N. Miami Avenue and 167th St.
Bath salts: None
Alternative: None. HuffPost asked the cashier repeatedly, and increasingly loudly, if UGas carried Cloud 9. "I don't understand," was the cashier's response. (Note: This gas station appeared to be sandwiched between a pre-school and an adult video store. 305!)

Valero gas station
26th Avenue and 163rd St.
Bath salts: None
Alternative: None. HuffPost selected this spot for its proximity to a Boston Market where a man allegedly under the influence of Cloud 9, alcohol, Xanax and Four Loko tried to bite police -- and got a fat "No" for our trouble.

Quality Smokes 4 Less
738 NE 167th St.
Bath salts: None
Alternative: Frustrated, HuffPost switched gears and stopped at this smoke shop. Four different brands of synthetic marijuana were displayed at the front counter. The cashier graciously took out the packages for inspection and recommended a packet of "super-strong incense," claiming, "It will knock you on your ass" -- and also offered a product labeled for its "tropical flavor," despite printed warnings that the contents should not be ingested. He did not ask for an ID.
Purchase: 3 grams of Caution Super Strong Incense for $16.99.

Shell gas station
Biscayne Boulevard and 163rd St.
Bath salts: None
Alternative: None. After a lunch break, HuffPost decided to revisit the Boston Market area. Even though it seemed unlikely that corporate gas stations would carry either product, it was worth a try -- but turned out to be a bust.

BP gas station
Dixie Highway and 163rd St.
Bath salts: None.
Alternative: None. Stop number 9 was a repeat of the Shell gas station situation. Geez, how far did this guy walk for bath salts?

Happy Times Smoke Novelty
1607 NE 123rd St.
Bath salts: None.
Alternative: None. The shop no longer carries Cloud 9 or any other synthetic marijuana, said the clerk, who explained police have been seizing products "at all the shops." No sign of bath salts, either. Time to head back to the office.

Hmm. While bath salts are likely readily available on the street, HuffPost's complete strike-out didn't find them to be as easily accessible as advertised. Perhaps we weren't looking in the right places, or maybe it's tougher to find with recent legislation adding more chemicals to the list of Schedule 1 drugs.

Synthetic marijuana, however, is fairly accessible in shops -- at least until more Miami-Dade cities hop on the ban wagon.

WATCH: Synthetic marijuana is reportedly confusing doctors: