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NEWS | May 11, 2011

Zero tolerance means no spice

By Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Brannon Deugan, Joint Base Charleston public affairs

On March 1, 2011, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration declared Spice a Schedule I substance making the possession and selling of these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the United States.

The synthetic drug and other products that mimic the chemical compounds found in marijuana have been a rising concern for the military world-wide. This product, as well as many others, can be found among the list of illegal substances in accordance with the Department of Defense's zero tolerance policy.

Spice is just one version of a drug which contains cannabinoids and was once sold under a variety of names. The product may give a user the same effect as marijuana, but can pose serious health issues that could even lead to death.

For Sailors and Airmen at Joint Base Charleston, any use of a mind altering substance such as Spice is prohibited. Any member caught disobeying such lawful orders will be held accountable for their actions.

"The zero tolerance drug policy is essential to conducting safe operations in the Navy and Air Force," said Naval Support Activity Command Master Chief Billy Cady. "The military is not a place for people who indulge in illegal drugs. Anyone who is caught using these products is going to be told to leave. The use of drugs in a military atmosphere is not compatible with our mission."

The zero tolerance policy clearly states all service members must comply, regardless of the recent popularity of a drug. Service members who violate this policy will be subject to disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

"The UCMJ establishes a clear set of guidelines for all branches of service," said Religious Programs Specialist Chief Stephen Walz, Naval Support Activity's command drug and alcohol program advisor. "Military personnel know and understand the standards that are expected of them."

Effective communication of the DoD's zero tolerance policy and the education of service members can deter drug abuse even against society's newest designer drugs.

Upon entering the military, service members are provided with training on the zero tolerance policy," said RPC Walz. "Commands will continue to provide education to ensure all service members are aware of recent drug trends."

According to recent reports, during a five month period ending in March 2011, 192 Sailors faced disciplinary actions for the use or possession of Spice or similar products containing synthetic cannabinoid compounds.

A valuable deterrence of drug use is a command's urinalysis program, which randomly selects individuals for unannounced urine samples.

"For a majority of military personnel, the zero tolerance standard is not an issue," said RPC Walz. "However, for those few that do not maintain the standard, the urinalysis program provides crucial evidence of drug use to assist in upholding the zero tolerance policy."

Urinalysis programs can detect the use of drugs, but it's up to law enforcement to stop the possession and distribution of drugs. If a service member fails to report another service member's known drug use to their chain of command or law enforcement officials, that service member is also accountable based upon their knowledge of illegal activity.

"Service members need to be aware of what drug paraphernalia is and looks like and what the physical and psychological signs of drug abuse are," explained RPC Walz. "That knowledge can save someone's life. If compliance to this policy saves only one life, then that is enough to enforce the zero tolerance policy.