Thinking about trying 'spice'? Think again
December 5, 2011
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - There's no more wiggle room for service members at the Presidio of Monterey or elsewhere who want to use marijuana substitutes like "spice" or K2.
New rules by both the military and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency make at least one thing clear to Soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors: Spice will burn you.
In February, Secretary of the Army John McHugh established an Army-wide policy prohibiting the use and possession of synthetic cannabis and other substitutes for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC, the primary psychoactive constituent of marijuana and substance in it that causes a "high."
Air Force officials released guidance in June 2010 banning the use or possession of spice.
Spice and other designer drugs also fall under Navy and Marine Corps zero-tolerance policies.
And, on March 1, the DEA also made spice illegal nationwide for at least a year.
The product spice, and other products that use that name generically, are sold in packets and appear as a shredded green herb, similar to marijuana. The product is a delivery system for synthetic cannabinoids, and when smoked gives users an effect similar to that of smoking marijuana.
"Synthetic cannabis and THC substitutes are so closely related in action to THC as to make it obvious that synthetic cannabis and THC substitutes will have the same potential for abuse as THC," wrote McHugh in his memo. "It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that synthetic cannabis and THC substitutes have substantial capabilities of creating hazards to the mission of the Army, the health of the user and to the safety of the Army community."
McHugh's memo spells out clearly what the Army's rules are for the drug.
In regards to spice and other similar synthetic marijuana products, Soldiers from all components of the Army are prohibited from "using, possessing, manufacturing, selling, distributing, importing into or exporting from the United States, or introducing into any installation, vessel, vehicle, or aircraft used by or under the control of the Army."
The DEA also took action on synthetic marijuana products by temporarily placing five synthetic cannabinoids into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, right alongside PCP, Ecstasy and real marijuana.
The DEA's addition of the synthetic cannabinoids into the Controlled Substances Act means that it is no longer just prohibited for service members to use them--it's illegal now for all Americans to possess and use them.
Buddy Horne, with the Army substance abuse program, said that while the DEA's listing of the drug is only temporary, and can be reevaluated within a year, the same is not true of the Army's policy.
"Our secretary of the Army memo is permanent until rescinded," he said.
While it's now illegal for military personnel to use or possess spice, the services are working to develop easy ways for commanders to test service members who might have used the drug.
The forensic toxicology division within the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner tests for spice and other designer drugs at the request of the services.
Horne gave an example for requesting a test: "I (find) something on that Soldier, in his room, in his car, in his possession, that would allow me … to say 'now I can test this Soldier for this particular drug because we found some kind of evidence.'"
Regardless of testing, the military services have the authority to prosecute violators under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Commanding officers don't need a positive urinalysis to begin the process of removing violators from military service, said Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., the Navy's surgeon general and chief of the service's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.
Also, Robinson emphasized that abstinence isn't enough to confront the spice problem. Like those who use, possess or distribute spice, anyone who observes these practices and doesn't report them can be charged with violating the Navy's policies as well.
"It is not good enough to simply police our own actions with regards to spice and other designer drugs," he said. "These drugs are dangerous, and we learn more about their damaging effects each day. It is essential that every sailor and Marine be looking out for their colleagues to prevent injury to their health and their careers."
(Based on articles by C. Todd Lopez, Army News Service, and Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service.)