Businesses still need to file appeal to be lifted off “off-limits” after NC Spice ban

15 Jun 2011 | Sgt. Bryan A. Peterson

The recent North Carolina bill banning synthetic drugs, popularly known as Spice or bath salts, on June 1 doesn’t necessarily mean good news for stores on the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River off-limits list, which restricts service members entering such establishments.

The bill, North Carolina Senate Bill 7/ House Bill 13, outlaws selling, possessing and manufacturing the “fake” drugs. The drugs gained popularity at the end of calendar year 2009 across the United States and has caused near death experiences in some cases. The drug, popular among adolescents and young adults, causes a marijuana-like high which is undetectable on drug urinalysis tests – arguably one of the main reasons why it was popular.

Area businesses that, at the time, legally sold these drugs were not necessarily put on the off-limits list when word got out about the dangers of these products. Rather, if the businesses sold these products to service members and were caught doing so, they became off limits.

Marine Corps Forces Command Order 5355.1, in conjunction with the Department of the Navy, issued earlier this year forbids Marines and sailors to use, possess, distribute or sell these substances.

James Rohn, the operations officer for the Marine Corps Installations East Inspector General’s office, said before businesses were put on the off-limits list, base officials gave them a chance by making an effort to warn them not to sell these products to service members.

“We literally went business to business to hand deliver letters warning them that service members are not allowed to use, possess and distribute these products,” Rohn said. “If the businesses were selling the product, but not to service members, we couldn’t do anything. But, if they were caught doing so, we would have sent them to the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board and recommend them to be put on the list.”

The Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board is comprised of all the tenant commands aboard the base, and its mission is to advise and make recommendations to the MCB Camp Lejeune commanding officer and the CO of MCAS New River concerning the correction of conditions which may adversely affect the health, safety, morals, welfare, morale or discipline of military personnel.

Stores that have sold these drugs to service members are not the only ones on the list. Establishments that have also shown shady business practices, such as price gouging or prostitution in gentlemen’s clubs, are also on the list.

Every quarter, according to Rohn, the board will hold hearings to let the businesses plead their cases and the board will make its decision whether or not to lift them from the off-limits list.

“We thought after the (North Carolina Spice ban) took effect, we’d see a lot of these businesses on the off-limits list petition,” said Rohn. “One thing they should know, however, because the ban is now in place, that doesn’t mean they can be taken off the list. Put it this way, they weren’t automatically put on the list and they won’t automatically be taken off.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert O’Dwyer, investigations officer for the Criminal Investigation Division, Marine Corps Police Department, Department of Public Safety, has been involved with a myriad of drug-related cases and warns service members that the off-limits roster is still in effect and anyone caught will be subject to disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“Anyone caught would be in violation of a lawful order under Article 92 of the UCMJ,” said O’Dwyer. “Depending on the command, the service member could receive a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 2 years. Bottom line, service members need to stay away from the off-limit establishments.”