NCIS cracks down on spice

23 Jul 2013 | Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera

Leaders of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Naval Criminal Investigative Services are prosecuting those who use, make or sell Spice, a synthetic cannabinoid throughout the base and surrounding regions.

The Marine Corps has taken an aggressive stance on Spice users to maintain operational readiness of commands, said Curtis Evans, a supervisory special agent with NCIS.

“The Marine Corps is very good at prosecuting (crimes relating to Spice) with a minimum of non-judicial punishments and administrative separation,” said Evans.

In the last few months, military drug testing has expanded to check for Spice and substances with a similar chemical makeup.

“Marines are using Spice because they think it is a way to get high that will not result in a positive urinalysis, but right now the Marine Corps is catching up,” said Heather Powers, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge with NCIS. “We will remain diligent in our efforts to stop this.”

Manufacturers attempting to skirt restrictions often substitute chemicals in the substance. Ingredients used to make Spice, and those with a similar chemical makeup, are controlled substances, which are illegal to sell, buy or possess.

Spice is often marketed as a natural legal high. Chemical analyses have shown the substances’ active ingredients are synthetic, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The Drug Enforcement Agency updates restrictions frequently on substances that are similar to and produce the same effects as illegal narcotics.

The effects of Spice on the individual are not limited to legal problems. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some users reported psychological effects like extreme anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations.

“Some have suffered significant psychological damage,” said Powers. “While one brand may have a minimal effect on an individual, another brand may produce significant effects.”

Powers and Evans reported drastic mental changes in users who experience psychological damage, such as suicidal, violent and unpredictable behavior.

“(Spice) is so new, nobody really knows what the long term affects of the drug are,” said Evans.

Spice not only affects the individual using it, said Evans. It also affects the Marine’s unit cohesion and morale.

Money spent to purchase Spice may be used by world-wide criminal organizations to support criminal and terrorist activities, he added.

“Some Marines may think they are only hurting themselves and their unit, but in reality they are hurting the United States,” said Evans.

Many apprehended users reported using the drug in plain sight, including in barracks rooms, smoke pits and vehicles. Evans said leaders could look for indicators a Marine may have Spice such as the innards of cigars or cigars and cigarettes whose smoke smells distinctly different than tobacco or marijuana.

In the fight against Spice, NCIS plays a unique role.

As a federal agency its jurisdiction is not limited to the confines of military installations. Agents can apprehend perpetrators anywhere.

For information about how to submit an anonymous tip to NCIS, visit