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NEWS | May 23, 2011

The “Spice” of life isn’t this stuff

By 628th Air Base Wing Staff Judge Advocate

Joint Base Charleston is catching Spice users, punishing them and ending their careers. Spice users often leave the military without an honorable discharge and without any GI Bill benefits. If you think that you can use Spice and get away with it, think again.
The Air Force has prohibited the use of synthetic cannobinoids, more popularly known as "Spice" or "K2", for years. Since 2010, Air Force Instruction 44-120 has prohibited Air Force members from using or possessing Spice. Prior to that time and continuing through to this day, Air Mobility Command also prohibited military members from using or possessing Spice by General Order. Orders prohibiting Spice have also been routine in the Navy for quite some time. Violation of these orders is a violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Spice is no longer just prohibited in the military; it is also illegal for civilians as well. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the Drug Enforcement Agency is responsible for classifying and limiting access to drugs. Drugs which have a high potential for abuse and which have no accepted medical use are classified as a Schedule I drug. Spice became a Schedule I drug March 1, 2011.

What does the DEA's new classification of Spice mean? For one, Spice users can be punished more severely. Violation of Article 92 of the UCMJ includes a maximum of two years in confinement. However, now that Spice is listed as a Schedule I drug, it is also a violation of Article 112a of the UCMJ, which prohibits the wrongful use, possession and distribution of a controlled substance. The maximum punishment for violating Article 112a is five years in confinement, a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank to E-1 and total forfeitures of all pay and allowances. The stakes have clearly been raised for Spice users.

Not only have the penalties for Spice use increased, but so has our ability to catch people possessing it. Since Spice is now illegal both on and off-base, possession of Spice carries the added risk of detection by civilian law enforcement. Two months ago if the civilian police caught you with Spice nothing would happen to you. Now, you will be immediately arrested. On-base, Joint Base Charleston is stepping up random sweeps.
The Department of Defense has also become better at detecting people using Spice. Think that your Spice use won't show up in a urinalysis? Think again. We can now test people's urine for Spice use. We have had five individuals test positive for Spice right here at Joint Base Charleston.

What happens after we catch people using Spice and they are punished under the UCMJ? Simple. They are discharged. Under AFI 36-3208, discharge processing for anyone using or possessing drugs is mandatory. The only way that a member can stay in the Air Force is if their immediate commander, the 628th Air Base Wing commander and the NAF commander all believe that the member should be retained. That hasn't happened for years at Charleston. Almost everyone caught receives a general discharge, which means no GI Bill.

Even if you don't care about jail, your career or going to college you shouldn't use Spice if you care about your health. According to the DEA, Spice use can result in agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia (fast, racing heartbeat), elevated blood pressure, tremor, seizures, hallucinations, paranoid behavior and non-responsiveness. There are also instances of psychotic episodes, withdrawal and dependence on Spice.