The Marines are leading the way in a military crackdown of synthetic marijuana products (like Spice, K2, Armageddon or Salvia). Recent Base and Command Orders have specifically banned those products named above, known for causing a "cannabis-like" effect when smoked or burned like incense. Possession or use of these banned substances is being treated as a crime, subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The Marines' stance is a hard line in the ongoing military war on drugs. Members of the military - particularly those in active combat zones - have notoriously turned to mood-altering substances like drugs or alcohol to deal with the pressures of war. The banning of Spice and similar products is unique because possession of those substances is legal under civilian state and federal laws.
Some Marines have previously assumed that since Spice isn't prohibited by law, it was safe for them to consume without penalty - that simply isn't the case. The Marine Corps is treating cases of Spice possession and use just like it would any other drug crime case, including time in the brig and the possibility of a less-than-honorable discharge (which carries penalties of its own, like loss of benefits and disqualification from eligibility for the GI bill and other veterans' assistance programs).
What Is Spice?
Spice is the common name for a number of different herbal and/or chemical compounds that - when combined with tobacco to be smoked or sprayed on incense - mimic the effects of THC, the "high-producing" ingredient in marijuana. What makes Spice different - aside from the fact that it has not yet been banned by the federal or state governments - is that it also contains a chemical called Salvinorin A. That substance is a naturally occurring hallucinogen that has been proven to not only have a high incidence of abuse, but also produces dangerous symptoms in the body. Effects include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Elevated blood pressure
- Uncontrolled anger
- Loss of judgment
- Short-term memory loss
- Anxiety and panic attacks
The stated purpose of the military's crackdown on the use of Spice and similar substances is expressed succinctly in Marine Corps Base Order 5800.7, the order specifically banning the drugs at Marine Corps Base, Quantico (MCBQ): "protect the health and fitness" of military men and women because "Spice [has] a high potential to negatively affect the health, welfare, and performance of Marines and Sailors." Similar language is used in the order banning the drug's use at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
How Is the Corps Leading the Fight?
In addition to setting forth Command and Base Orders prohibiting possession, distribution and use of Spice and other designer drugs, some bases - like Camp Foster in Okinawa - have set up anonymous tip lines and websites designed to catch offenders. Other branches of the service may soon follow suit, as the Navy and Air Force have also recently instituted testing procedures that can detect components of Spice in random urine test samples. Both the Navy and the Air Force report dismissing cadets and midshipmen at their respective academies because of Spice-related offenses.
The Corps has also set forth specific punishments for people caught in possession of banned substances like Spice, Salvia and K2. Specifically, the Corps allows for punishment by confinement to the base, time spent in the brig, appearance before boards of inquiry, command investigations and administrative separation/Courts Martial.
With the Marine Corps and other branches of the military all taking a definite stand against Spice and similar designer drugs, more and more service men and women will likely be charged with drug-related violations. Something they may not realize, though, is that they have the right to seek representation from an independent civilian attorney if they are being investigated, ordered to appear before a board of inquiry or subjected to administrative separation proceedings. An experienced criminal defense attorney could make all the difference between a life spent in service to your country and a lifetime of regret for a youthful mistake.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a Spice-related offense by the Marine Corps or other military branch, contact a criminal defense lawyer with knowledge of the Uniform Code of Military Justice as soon as possible in order to protect your rights and keep your legal options open.