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Policy eases rules on testing Marines for Spice

Dec. 11, 2012 - 11:10AM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 11, 2012 - 11:10AM  |  
Marines and sailors aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., line up for drug tests on Nov. 30. Maj. Gen. Ray Fox, commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, ordered a MEF-wide urinalysis, requiring all 53,000 service members to be tested by the end of the day.
Marines and sailors aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., line up for drug tests on Nov. 30. Maj. Gen. Ray Fox, commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, ordered a MEF-wide urinalysis, requiring all 53,000 service members to be tested by the end of the day. (Cpl. Daniel A. Wulz / Marine Corps)
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MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. The Corps is making it easier to test Marines for suspected use of Spice and other synthetic drugs.

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MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. The Corps is making it easier to test Marines for suspected use of Spice and other synthetic drugs.

Under a new policy, personnel will be required to submit to urinalysis if commanders have reason to believe their Marines have used the drugs, which produce a high comparable to marijuana and have been a problem in the ranks for the past several years. That can include other members of a unit turning in a fellow Marine who's been seen using Spice, or a commander learning that the drug is in a Marine's possession, said Dr. Linda Love, head of the substance abuse section of the Marine and Family Programs Division at Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

The Corps "provides commanders with tools to ensure that their units are mission-ready and to maintain good order and discipline," Love said. "One tool is to allow the commander to test for illegal substances … when there is probable cause."

Previously, a Marine was required to submit to urinalysis for suspected Spice use only if there was an open criminal investigation into his or her behavior, according to Marine administrative message 683/12, released Nov. 30. The new policy went into effect Dec. 1.

The policy is the Corps' latest move to crack down on synthetic drug use among Marines. Often marketed as incense, Spice and products like it have become popular due to their availability online, and in tobacco shops and convenience stores and because most standard drug screens have been unable to detect the compounds used to make them. The Corps tested 372 Marines for spice in fiscal 2012, which ended Sept. 30.

Spice is far from safe, however. Synthetic drugs have been connected to health risks, including hallucinations, paranoid delusions and suicidal thoughts. A new government study, the first assessing synthetic drug use, claims Spice and the like sent nearly 11,500 people to the hospital in 2010 and are most popular with teens and military-age young adults, according to a Dec. 4 report in USA Today.

The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, approved by Congress in July, prohibits the sale of synthetic drugs.

In another new effort, Maj. Gen. Ray Fox, commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., has announced a new Counter Drug Campaign. On Nov. 30, he ordered MEF-wide urinalysis testing for nearly 53,000 active-duty Marines and sailors. The testing was overseen by a new Counter Drug Task Force, established by Fox.

"Marines don't do drugs, and if they do, they'll be out of the Corps," the general said in a Marine Corps news release.

Lt. Col. Eric Young, commander of Lejuene's 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion, said the MEF-wide testing will not be a one-time event.

"This is part of sustained deterrence efforts, partnering with other law enforcement agencies across Camp Lejeune and in other locations," he said. "This is also the first of many law enforcement activities the task force will execute."

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