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Air Force sets new standard against illicit drug use

NAS FORT WORTH JRB, Texas -- The Air Force is cracking down on Airmen who are using illicit drugs, specifically Spice, in order to maintain the highest level of mission readiness and promote the health and safety of Airmen.

Spice refers to a group of herbal incense products made from a variety of plants that are intentionally adulterated with synthetic cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are similar to chemicals found in Cannabis sativa (marijuana) but distinct in their chemical, physical and psychotropic properties when compared with Salvinorin A and chemicals found in Salvia divinorum. It is considered a marijuana alternative because it has the same dangerous side effects. The manufacture of Spice is not closely controlled and its ingredients can be unknown and harmful.

Air Force officials recently updated AFI 44-120 and issued an updated guidance memorandum for AFI 44-121 revising the Military Drug Demand Reduction Program and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program, respectively. The modification was made to provide a standard and enable commanders to address misuse of intoxicating substances.

Airmen who violate the new policy are liable for having disobeyed a lawful general order or regulation, which is a violation of Article 92, Uniform Code of Military Justice. If the commander refers the case to a general court-martial, the maximum punishment is a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 2 years. Nonetheless, a commander has the entire range of options for addressing a violation to include administrative action, non-judicial punishment, and referral to a court-martial.

In March 2011, the Drug Enforcement Agency used its emergency enforcement authority to temporarily add five chemicals commonly used in Spice to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Following this action, USAF members found to have used, possessed, distributed, or manufactured one of these five controlled substances can be charged with drug abuse under Article 112a, Uniform Code of Military Justice. Airmen court-martialed under this Article face dishonorable discharge, confinement for five years or more, and total forfeiture of all pay and allowances. Enlisted members also face reduction to the lowest enlisted grade.

The Air Force now has the capability to drug test for Spice using urinalysis. With the implementation of testing, officials intend to send a very clear message: use Spice and you may lose your career, end up in jail or both, officials said.

Prior to these changes, there was no specific Air Force-wide approach. Commanders had dealt with the abuse of Salvia and Spice in a variety of ways. This included issuance of orders specific to a command, treating it as a dereliction of duty or reliance on local or state laws banning use of these substances.

Please review Air Force Guidance Memo to AFI 44-121, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program and AFI 44-120, Military Drug Demand Reduction Program for more information.