A new order at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Feltwell aims to get tough on anyone who gets mixed up with a powerful hallucinogenic plant that is legal in the United Kingdom, other parts of Europe and parts of the United States.
Col. Jay Silveria, 48th Fighter Wing commanding officer, issued the order Sept. 12. It warns that anyone caught using, distributing or possessing salvia divinorum — or Magic Mint and Sally D, as it is known — could be booted out of the Air Force or court-martialed.
The order also applies to Spice, which has been called a legal form of marijuana.
"The presence of persons, in a military environment, who engage in drug abuse through the use of either salvia divinorum or Spice seriously impairs the ability to accomplish the military’s mission," Silveria wrote in the order. "Members who abuse drugs such as salvia divinorum or Spice adversely affect the ability of all units at the 48th Fighter Wing."
Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas is the only other military base or unit with a similar order, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Pentagon officials said.
"This order spends a little time talking about these two products in an effort to warn people," said Air Force Lt. Col. John Hartsell, the staff judge advocate at RAF Lakenheath. "It’s something we got to keep the airmen away from.
"It is one of those things that has kind of come up in the United States and has begun to pop up randomly in Europe."
A Department of Health and Human Services survey published in February estimated that 1.8 million people ages 12 and older used Sally D. Its use was more common among people 18 to 25.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Web site, salvia divinorum is an herb native to parts of Oxaca, Mexico. Its active ingredient is salvinorin A, and it is chewed or smoked. The effects can appear within 30 seconds and can last 30 minutes.
Spice and its more potent versions, Gold Spice and Diamond Spice, are mixtures of any variety of substances, Hartsell said. It can include something called Indian Warrior, a flower with a muscle relaxant-like property, he said.
Sally D can be detected through urinalysis or a hair analysis, Hartsell said. Spice can show up only in a urinalysis test.
Hartsell said he has only heard of one incident in which a serviceman or woman became involved with Sally D or Spice. Hartsell declined to comment about that case because it is still working its way through the legal system and it is unclear what action will be taken.
The U.S. Army in Europe does not have any written policy regarding Spice or Sally D, said Army Lt. Col. Richard Spiegel, chief of public communications for USAREUR. Possession of Sally D is against the law in Germany, Italy and Belgium, he added.
"The use of any illegal substance is a concern because that is conduct unbecoming a soldier," Spiegel said.
Spiegel said the punishment for anyone caught possessing, using or distributing Sally D or Spice would depend on the circumstances, but it could include a court-martial.
Silveria’s order gives commanding officers the authority to determine how anyone caught using, possessing or selling Sally D or Spice should be punished, Hartsell said. The punishment could range from no action to an Article 134, an administrative discharge, or even a court-martial.
Navy officials in Europe could not be reached for comment.
The DEA is also looking at Sally D to determine if it should be controlled substance nationwide, DEA spokeswoman Rogene Waite said.
"In addition to that, the FDA has to weigh in and make a recommendation," Waite said.
There is no time frame for a decision to be made and the DEA looks at several factors before making a decision, Waite said.
State laws range on Sally D. It is illegal in Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Virginia, the DEA Web site indicated. Louisiana, Maine and Tennessee have laws that restrict the distribution of the plant. As of June 2008, regulatory laws on Sally D were pending in California, Alaska, New York, Ohio and a handful of other states.
A Spice concoction would be illegal in the United States if it included any controlled substances, Waite said.