The battle against Spice is won though threats still loom

1 Mar 2011 | Lance Cpl. Christofer P. Baines

The Marine Corps and the other branches of service face a growing enemy found on shelves in stores near military installations known as “Spice.”

Fighting alongside their counterparts, the Marine Corps has taken a stance against Spice by prohibiting Marines from using the drug and possessing it altogether.

Today the Drug Enforcement Administration has dealt a devastating blow to the sale of Spice using its emergency scheduling authority under the Controlled Substances Act to regulate five of the chemicals commonly found in Spice as Schedule I controlled substances, which makes it illegal for at least one year.

This federal regulation helps reinforce the Department of Defense stance against this drug.

The composition of spice is a mixture of chemicals that are blended with herbs to mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana. It is commonly sold as herbal potpourri at convenience stores, tobacco shops and novelty stores under a number of brand names. It is usually smoked in pipes and joints to achieve the hallucinogenic effect associated with marijuana.

The easy-to-acquire drug had taken the armed forces by storm and the use of Spice by Marines has not gone unnoticed by top officials.

“We share with our military partners their concern regarding the public health hazards of Spice for young adults, especially those in uniform,” said Barbara Carreno, a DEA spokesperson. “It is our mission to protect the public in the area of controlled substances.”

DEA officials moved to ban Spice due to the alarming amount of calls received by poison control centers and emergency room visits regarding the negative effects of the drug, she added.

This fake pot is untested in humans and long term effects are not entirely known, though a range of negative effects has been observed.

“The side effects of Spice are also of concern, as it can cause anxiety, agitation, paranoia, slurred speech, impairment of coordination and memory and light headedness,” said Vice Adm. Adam Robinson, Surgeon General of the Navy. “In some cases, there have been reports of elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, hallucinations and near death experiences.”

Though Marines had been explicitly ordered to observe prohibition of the product, a common misconception was that commands couldn’t test for the substance. This is to the contrary, however, and Marines have been feeling the effect Corpswide.

With the new temporary scheduling made possible by the DEA, Spice will no longer be readily available to Marines or their civilian counterparts for the next year.

While the temporary scheduling is in effect, the Department of Health and Human Services will do research with the substance and pass on a recommendation as to whether or not it should regulated to the DEA, said Carreno. The final verdict is not a predetermined decision.  

Headquarters Marine Corps