Calif / Camp Pendleton / News Stories

USMC modifies test protocol for spice

Marine Corps Times cover

A Sept. 6, 2011 cover of Marine Corps Times features a headline about the Marine Corp’s battle with spice.

Marine Corps Forces Pacific put its steel-toed boot down on spice, Dec. 1, 2009, when it published MARFORPAC Order 5355.2.

The order reiterated the Marine Corps’ zero tolerance drug policy by stating, spice and Salvia Divinorum, while not listed as a controlled substance and highly accessible by service members, are hereby prohibited to all service members assigned to the MARFORPAC chain-of-command. Three years later, the Marine Corp’s battle against spice continues to evolve.

Headquarters Marine Corps released MARADMIN 683/12, which announced the expansion in testing protocol for synthetic compounds Marine Corps-wide, Nov. 30.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Cajas, substance abuse control officer with I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, said the primary change in policy is commanders no longer have to launch an investigation with Naval Criminal Investigation Services to test a Marine for spice.

Commanders will still have to request approval from Headquarters Marine Corps to test a Marine for the substance. However, by cutting out the middleman, urinalysis testing is more timely and efficient to ensure good conduct of Marines, Cajas said.

The myth that spice, a synthetic form of marijuana, could not be traced was debunked, Feb. 22, 2011, when the Air Force implemented a urine test to screen for the drug. The Marine Corps, as well as other branches of the military, followed suit, according to a Marine Corps Times article published March 21, 2011.

Marine Corps budget limits units to 500 tests for spice per fiscal year, Cajas said, which is why the substance still isn’t traced in the standard annual urinalysis and the Marine Corps does not randomly test Marines for spice. If there is probable cause to suspect a Marine is using the substance, commanders can utilize the proper chain-of-command to request to have the Marine tested.

“It’s going to be a different processing center than where they usually take the urinalysis samples for testing,” said Staff Sgt. Gabriel Garcia, legal chief with I MHG. “It also gives the (commanding officer) the power to request testing of urinalysis based on something he may have found during a walk-through. There doesn’t have to be specific investigation going on. All he has to have is probable cause.”

According to MARADMIN 579/10, abuse of these substances and others like them poses a significant danger to the health and safety of Marines and sailors; It also has great potential to affect the efficiency, discipline and good order of Marine units. In addition to their high risk of physical effects, being accessible and unregulated heightens the dangers associated with their abuse.
“I think in the long run, (the new policy) will help deter Marines from using spice,” Garcia said.

Currently, the minimum punishment for Marines caught using spice is an other than honorable discharge from the Marine Corps. Marines caught using spice will be charged under Article 112: Wrongful use, possession, etc., of controlled substance of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. A positive urinalysis can also result in a dishonorable discharge and/or two years confinement.

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