FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (July 12, 2012) -- Soldiers face a new drug threat in the form of Salvia Divinorum and "Spice," two substances that have been on the rise as marijuana substitutes.

Recent changes in federal law make it illegal to possess most forms of Spice. Similarly, all marijuana substitutes are illegal in the Army and may subject the Soldier to court-martial, nonjudicial punishment (Article 15) or separation.

Salvia Divinorum is a naturally occurring hallucinogenic plant compound from the mint family. Spice is a synthetic cannabinoid made up of many different compounds. Both have been misused by Soldiers for their mind-altering or drug-like effects.

Salvia Divinorum is available commercially in both leaf and extract form. Ingestion may cause intense and dangerous LSD-like psychedelic experiences, which may include hallucinations, uncontrolled emotional outbursts, incoherent speech, changes in perception, and dizziness. In high doses it can cause unconsciousness and short-term memory loss.

Salvia Divinorum is also referred to as Magic Mint, Diviner's Sage, Sage Goddess, Emerald Essence, "la pastora (the sherperdess)," and, in context, simply as "Dalvia."

Spice is a mixture of herbs and synthetic cannabinoid compounds that, prior to March 1, 2011, was legally marketed by commercial sources. Spice could be purchased on the Internet and at local smoke shops. It was often advertised as incense or an "herbal smoking blend."

Users commonly smoke Spice to produce a feeling of euphoria similar to that caused by marijuana. It is 10 times stronger than an equivalent amount of marijuana.

Spice can cause decreased motor function, loss of concentration and impairment of short-term memory.

Spice was marketed under the brand names of Spice Silver, Gold, Diamond, Tropical Synergy, Yucatan Gold, Dream, Blue Lotus, Bombay Blue, Gold Seal and Magic Silver.

Prior to March 1, 2011, synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice were legal for civilians to possess and use. However, on March 1, 2011, the Drug Enforcement Agency placed five forms of synthetic cannabinoids used in Spice into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

This action by the DEA makes possessing and selling Spice illegal. Under federal law, punishment for possession of Spice containing these chemicals will be similar to punishment for possession of marijuana.

More importantly, on Feb. 10, 2011, Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh issued an Army-wide policy prohibiting the use and possession of any synthetic cannabinoid or other marijuana substitute. This includes Salvia Divinorum and Spice.

The policy is punitive. Soldiers that violate the policy are subject to prosecution under Article 92, United States Code of Military Justice, for failure to obey a lawful general order. The maximum punishment at a court-martial for possession or use of either substance is confinement for two years, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge.

Soldiers should not be tempted to experiment with these substances or fooled by the ease by which they can be obtained. Being caught in possession of either Salvia Divinorum or Spice can destroy a Soldier's career.

Soldiers caught in possession of either substance will most likely lose rank or be separated from the Army.