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Adding “spice” to your life could cost career, more

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Catherine Fahling
  • 90th Missile Wing Staff Judge Advocate
Everybody in the military knows abusing drugs is wrong. Some think they can get away with it by using a relatively new substance, commonly known as "spice." This is not such a good plan as using spice may cost your career and so much more.

Recently, the nature of drug use has been changing across the country. Dozens of producers have begun manufacturing hundreds of varieties of products designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs while trying to get around civilian drug laws. The common term for these products is spice, although these products also have other brand names under which they are marketed. Though spice is sold at local convenience stores and "head shops" as a legal alternative to illegal drugs, use of the product may be illegal under federal law and it is definitely illegal for Air Force members.

Spice is a blend of botanical substances often sold as incense. Though the large majority of spice products are designed to mimic the effects of using marijuana, the Drug Enforcement Agency has recently noted products designed to mimic the effects of ecstasy and sold as plant fertilizer. Some spice may contain only botanical substances, but many have been found to contain "controlled substance analogues," chemicals mixed together to have the same effect as an illegal substance. Under federal law, an analogue is illegal to the same extent as the product it mimics.

The use of spice is always illegal for military members, regardless of where it's done or the substance's components. In April, Col. Greg Tims, 90th Missile Wing commander, issued a lawful order prohibiting the use, possession and distribution of spice in any form by all military members assigned or attached to the 90th MW, including tenant units. In June, Air Force Instruction 44-121 was updated to state, "the knowing use of any intoxicating substance, other than the lawful use of alcohol or tobacco products, that is inhaled, injected, consumed or introduced into the body in any manner to alter mood or function is prohibited." The 90th Missile Wing law enforcement has teamed up with local authorities to detect spice possession and use by military members off base near F. E. Warren.

Since the release of the commander's policy earlier this year, the legal office has processed several cases of spice use. Three airmen first class from the 30th Airlift Squadron and three airmen first class assigned to the 90th Security Forces Squadron received nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and were subsequently discharged from the Air Force with general service characterizations. A senior airman from the 90th Security Forces Squadron received nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the UCMJ and is being processed for discharge for drug abuse. An airman first class from the 90th Security Forces Squadron was court-martialed and sentenced to 20 days confinement, 10 days hard labor without confinement, and reduction to airman basic.

If you're tempted to use spice while serving in the military, ask yourself if it's worth the possibility of a reduction in grade, forfeitures of pay, hard labor without confinement, confinement, separation from the Air Force with a less than honorable service characterization or a punitive discharge and loss of your G.I. Bill benefits. In the end, the potential costs are simply too high.