Local Navy and Marine Corps commanders have ordered their Marines and sailors to stay away from six unnamed Beaufort County businesses they say sell synthetic marijuana that is legal in South Carolina but prohibited to military personnel.
The substances, known by many names, including Spice and K2, are banned by the military "because of their ability to induce intoxication, excitement or stupefaction," the commanders of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Navy Hospital Beaufort said in a joint news release Friday.
"More than a year ago, the Marine Corps recognized that there were specific substances, commonly known as Spice or K2, being sold legally throughout the United States," Lt. Sharon Hyland, air station spokeswoman, said on behalf of the three bases. "These substances have been known to have a psychotropic effect on their user."
Spice was banned for use by Marines in February 2010, Corps records indicate.
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.
In August, Hyland said local commanders contacted area businesses believed to be selling the substance and asked that they not sell it to anyone who looked like a Marine or a sailor.
The six businesses that failed to comply with that request are now off-limits to area service members as of Tuesday, Hyland said.
"The establishments were informed of their status via certified letter and will have an opportunity to appeal their status once they remove the products from their inventory," Hyland said.
Hyland declined to name the six businesses.
"In an effort to preserve the strong relationship the military installations have with the Beaufort community, we are reserving publication of these establishments until they have had an opportunity to eliminate the products from their inventory," Hyland said.
Marines and sailors caught using Spice could be discharged, Hyland said.
Similar bans have been imposed for Marines stationed at bases in North Carolina and Georgia, according to an order from Maj. Gen. Carl Jensen, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East.
Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, introduced a bill in December to make the substance an illegal, Schedule I drug like LSD and Ecstasy.
The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, according to legislative records.
In late November, the DEA used its emergency-scheduling authority to temporarily outlaw five chemicals used to make Spice, K2 and other "fake pot" products.
The decision made possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the U.S. for at least one year, while the DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services study whether the chemicals and products should be permanently controlled, according to the DEA.