Two stores ignore military's Spice ban

April 4, 2011 

Two businesses in Beaufort County did not comply with a recent request from local military commanders to pull from their shelves synthetic marijuana that is legal in South Carolina but prohibited to military personnel.

Sexy by Nature on Riverwalk Boulevard in Okatie and the Citgo gas station on Savannah Highway in Port Royal are off limits to local Marines and sailors because military officials say the stores continue to sell the substance, which is known by many names, including Spice and K2.

Joel Laboy, co-owner of Sexy by Nature, said he didn't pull the substance because it is meant to be burned as incense, not smoked like marijuana.

"It's not meant for human consumption," Laboy said. "It says that right on the label. It's mainly meant to be burned like an incense. Banning someone from shopping here is like banning someone from going to a Sherwin-Williams because some people choose to sniff paint. If someone smokes this stuff, that's not my fault. That's their own idiocy."

Laboy said he isn't sure how the recent ban will affect his business, but he expects it will have some impact.

Information on how much of the substance the Okatie store typically sells was unavailable.

Attempts last week to reach owners of the Port Royal gas station were unsuccessful.

In February, six county businesses were declared off limits to local military personnel for failing to comply with a request in August to stop selling the substance to anyone who looked like a Marine or a sailor.

At the time, local officials declined to name the businesses to give them another chance to stop selling the substance.

Since then, four of the six businesses have pulled Spice from their shelves, said Lt. Sharon Hyland, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort spokeswoman.

Hyland said that Marines found patronizing the off- limits businesses or purchasing or consuming Spice will face serious penalties.

The substances are banned by the military "because of their ability to induce intoxication, excitement or stupefaction," the commanders of the air station, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Navy Hospital Beaufort said in a joint news release in February.

The drug consists of a mixture of herbs and spices sprayed with a chemical compound similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The Marine Corps takes any prohibited substance, not just Spice, very seriously," Hyland said. "We do not tolerate the use of illegal drugs, period. It is ... critical to our nation's defense that our Marines operate at peak efficiency, which is why Marines found purchasing, using or possessing illegal substances face punishment ... which could include separation from the Marine Corps."

Spice is legal for civilian use in South Carolina but might not be for long. Several bills have been introduced to outlaw synthetic marijuana, including a proposal by State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, to make the substance illegal like drugs such as LSD and Ecstasy.

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