JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The message is clear: Be aware and steer clear of "spice."

Joint Base Lewis-McChord Force Protection Division is warning military members against the use and possession of an intoxicant that has become the subject of much debate in civilian circles.

An I Corps command policy letter, sent to all I Corps and JBLM Soldiers on April 29, makes use, possession, or distribution of PEP Spice or similar drugs illegal. Those who do so are subject to disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Recently, several Soldiers tested positive for using the herbal compound known as "spice."

Chemistry World Magazine recently reported the intoxicating synthetic substance in spice, JWH-018, is four to five times more potent than tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, which is the main psychoactive substance in cannabis.

Many civilian jurisdictions are updating drug laws or examining the possibilities of out-lawing the drug found in "spice."

JWH-018 is legally sold under various "spice" names, such as Spice Gold, P.E.P Spice and Spice Yucatan Fire. The mixture is sold as incense or potpourri, but is typically smoked to get high.

While P.E.P. Spice and related products are the subject of little or no regulation in most civilian jurisdictions, the substances are strictly forbidden from use and possession by Army and Air Force personnel on federal reservations and military bases.

The I Corps and JBLM policy letter states military members are not permitted to use any substance that could cause impairment or create intoxication sufficient enough to diminish the rational and full exercise of the member's mental or physical faculties.

The only exception to those policies is alcohol, which has its own set of regulations under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Although the main ingredients of "spice" are herbal, it is also laced with harmful, intoxicating and addictive synthetic compounds.

Army Regulation 600-85 prohibits Soldiers from using substances for the purpose of inducing excitement, intoxication or stupefaction of the central nervous system.

Other branches of the armed forces also regulate possession and use of "spice" drugs in a similar fashion.

Service members found to be using "spice" products will be punished under the UCMJ.

Because of the reported highly addictive nature of JWH-018, some European countries that normally take a relaxed stance on drug laws, such as the Netherlands and Switzerland, have already banned "spice" from sale or consumption.

The history of "spice" as designer drug is fairly recent.

Abuse of "spice" products started to appear in news reports since 2004.

Long-term effects of "spice" usage are not known at this time.

However, the Food and Drug Administration has not cleared "spice" products for ingestion and require product packaging to be labeled warning consumers from misuse.

Rick Wood is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Fri August 27th, 2010 at 14:01