Navy to separate 15 sailors in drug probe

By Erik Slavin
Stars and Stripes
Published: July 3, 2009

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Navy is separating 15 USS George Washington sailors as it intensifies efforts to discourage the use and distribution of several off-limits drugs sold legally in Japan, officials said Tuesday.

Spice, touted by some as an alternative to marijuana because it is not illegal under U.S. federal law, and several other substances were named in a June 25 order signed by Rear Adm. Richard Wren, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan. The order clarifies and extends a 2005 order from the secretary of the Navy that banned use of designer drugs, natural substances and chemicals “with the intent to induce intoxication, excitement or stupefaction of the central nervous system.”

During May and June, 22 USS George Washington sailors were investigated for use and distribution of Spice, 7th Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Cate Wallace said.

Of the 22, 15 are in the process of separation under the 2005 order. While that order did not specifically name Spice, salvia divinorum and other drugs, the drugs fall within the order’s scope, said Lt. Jonathan Flynn of the Navy Legal Services Office at Yokosuka.

Since the investigation, all sailors in Task Force 70 have signed a form stating they are aware of the dangers and consequences of Spice and other drugs touted as “legal highs,” officials said.

Sailors and Marines worldwide could be prosecuted for violating that order and could also be prosecuted for related offenses like dereliction of duty.

“This isn’t an epidemic,” Flynn said. “But we have had some reported cases where SOFA personnel have gotten sick from the use of these substances.”

Use, possession and distribution of the 10 substances listed in the order are punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Navy civilians in Japan under the status of forces agreement aren’t subject to the UCMJ, but are subject to administrative action, which could result in being barred from base.

While the drugs in most cases are not considered controlled substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, their use has been banned in an increasing number of states and foreign countries.

Several, but not all, U.S. and overseas bases have banned drugs like Spice and salvia divinorum.

The Marines banned the drugs last year on Okinawa and mainland Japan after reporting rising use.

“The use of Spice emerged out of Okinawa and gradually made its way across [to the Japanese mainland],” Flynn said.

Yokosuka Naval Base banned their use in October 2008, Flynn said.

Information regarding illegal use of the drugs is being included during base orientation briefings, said CNFJ spokesman Cmdr. Ron Steiner.

Off-limit ‘legal highs’

A Commander Naval Forces Japan order dated June 25 made several drugs that are legal in Japan off-limits to sailors and subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. They include the following:

Salvia divinorum, also known as Maria Pastora, Sage of the Seers, Diviner’s Sage, Sally-D and Magic Mint
Mitragyna speciosa korth, also known as Kratom, Thang, Kakuam, Ketum and Biak
Spice, also known as Spice Gold
Blue lotus, also known as Egyptian Lotus, Blue Water Lily and Sacred Narcotic Lily of the Nile
Convolvulaceae argyreia nervosa, also known as Hawaiian Baby Woodrose
Lysergic acid amide, also known as Morning Glory
Amanitas mushroom
Datura, also known as Jimson Weed, Devil’s Apple, Thron Apple, Stinkweed, Moonflower, Malpitte and Toloache
5-MeO-DMT, also known as Powder Mushrooms, AMT, Bromo and DMT
Source: Commander Naval Forces Japan