June 22, 2012
By Sgt. Heather Brewer, Marine Corps Bases Japan
OKINAWA, Japan – The U.S. military law enforcement and Okinawa Prefectural Police Headquarters are working closely together to put a stop to the distribution and use of all drugs, especially “spice.”
The Okinawa prefectural government held a summit at the Prefectural Police Headquarters in Naha Jan. 18. During the summit, U.S. military and Okinawa law enforcement representatives met to discuss the issue of the synthetic drug commonly known as spice.
“According to Japanese pharmaceutical law, spice is not illegal to possess, but it is illegal to distribute,” said an undercover agent with the Special Operations Unit of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Okinawa. “More types of spice are being added to the pharmaceutical law, and it is anticipated that spice and its analogues will become a scheduled narcotic as was seen in the 1990s and 2000s with psilocybin mushrooms and ecstasy.”
Since Oct. 2011, more than 33 spice-related incidents have occurred on Okinawa. The biggest bust was a joint operation between U.S. military law enforcement agencies and the Okinawa City Police Department April 20, during which a total of 16 people were arrested.
“The NCIS is taking the spice problem seriously,” said the undercover agent. “When spice becomes a scheduled narcotic under Japanese law, service members caught with or distributing spice could be detained and charged under Japanese law.”
Until last year, spice and other synthetic cannabinoids were untraceable in routine urinalysis tests conducted by the U.S. military.
“As of March 2011, five ingredients commonly found in spice were added to the list of scheduled narcotics and can now be tested for during command-directed urinalysis,” said the agent.
The same month, the Drug Enforcement Administration made five common ingredients found in spice a class-one narcotic. With this in effect, all military service members caught with spice, which contains at least one of the five common chemicals, can be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 112a, which covers wrongful use, possession, manufacturing, distribution or importion of illegal substances by U.S. service members.
If caught with spice not containing one of the listed ingredients, service members can be charged under Article 92 for violating the prohibited substances order Secretary of the Navy Instruction 5300.28E.
“You used to only get a 6105 page 11 (counseling), which only goes in your service record,” said Michael C. Cote, supervisory special agent of the NCIS Special Operations Unit. “Now, if you are caught you could be (formally charged), which goes on your personal criminal record.”
The use of spice and other synthetic cannabinoids also comes with serious health risks. These risks include agitation, anxiety, body tremors, elevated blood pressure, hallucinations, nausea, non-responsiveness, paranoid behavior, seizures and vomiting.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers says 6,959 calls were made last year stemming from the effects of synthetic drugs like spice, K2 and other synthetic cannabinoids. The use of spice has become a problem in more countries than just the United States.
Spice has been the number-one drug problem on Okinawa among military service members for the past two years, according to NCIS.
“NCIS and Okinawa law enforcement are doing more operations to try to stop the distribution and use of spice as best as possible,” said Cote. “Spice is just not worth your career and possibly your life.”