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Spice is a felony

POSTED: April 9, 2012 10:02 a.m.
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Fort Stewart, GA - On March 27, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed legislation that outlaws all forms of synthetic marijuana, or “spice,” in the state of Georgia. Effective immediately, purchasing, possessing, selling or distributing any variation of synthetic marijuana is a felony in Georgia.

The legislation (Senate Bill 370) was named Chase’s Law in memory of Chase Corbitt Burnett, a 16-year-old honor student and soccer player found dead at his parents’ Fayette County home after smoking synthetic marijuana. The Georgia law comes on the heels of Third Infantry Division's declaration of “War on Spice.” On Sept. 11, 2011, Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams signed Policy Letter Number seven which prohibits all 3rd ID units, tenant units and personnel living or working on Fort Stewart or Hunter Army Airfield from using, possessing, manufacturing or distributing any variation of synthetic marijuana.

What is Spice?

Spice is the common nickname for synthetic marijuana. Also known as “K2” and various other nicknames, spice refers to any number of chemical compounds that mimic effects of marijuana when ingested. Because spice has no valid medical uses and is considered dangerous, it has not been fully assessed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Spice is suspected to be at the source of several deaths in the U.S.

What the New Law Does

Chase’s Law classifies any variation of synthetic marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under Georgia law. This places synthetic marijuana in the same drug class as ecstasy, heroin and LSD. The new law makes it a felony for any person to purchase, possess, sell, or distribute any variation of synthetic marijuana in the State of Georgia.

Prior to last week, only certain forms of spice were illegal in Georgia. Chase’s Law amends the previous Georgia law to broaden it and encompass all chemical compounds currently known to be used to create synthetic marijuana. This means that variations of spice that might have been legal prior to last week are now illegal. Furthermore, the law is effective immediately. Anyone who possessed spice in the state of Georgia prior to the new law is now guilty of a felony if found in possession of the substance even if they purchased it legally before the new law took effect.

Penalties under Georgia State Law

As a Schedule I controlled substance, all forms of synthetic marijuana are now viewed by Georgia law in the same light as the most egregious of drugs. Simple possession of spice can earn someone anywhere from the mandatory two years in prison to 15 years in prison for a first offense. Delivery or distribution of spice carries a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, with a penalty range of up to 30 years. The penalties do not discriminate whether the possessor or dealer is caught with one ounce or ten pounds.

What this Means for Soldiers, Civilians

Regardless of geographical location, Soldiers belonging to the 3rd ID were already prohibited from using, possessing, selling, or distributing any variation of synthetic marijuana based on previous orders from the Secretary of the Army and Maj. Gen. Abrams. Violations of those orders are punishable under Article 92, UCMJ. Chase’s Law now allows Soldiers caught with spice to be prosecuted in either state court or at court martial using the new state law. Soldiers therefore face broader legal exposure under the new law. Policy Letter Number Seven prohibits Soldiers and Civilians from using possessing, selling or distributing any variation of spice on Stewart-Hunter property. Civilians violating this policy letter are subject to administrative sanctions and possible loss of employment, but only face prosecution if the particular form of spice violated the old Georgia law or federal law prior to last week. Now, under Chase’s Law, civilians face felony prosecution in U.S. District Court if caught with any form of spice on either installation.

Crackdown on Establishments Selling Spice

To enforce the law, Georgia law enforcement agents are visiting smoke shops, gas stations and convenience stores across the state to inform them of the new law and seize any synthetic marijuana. Establishments that fail to comply with Chase’s Law could face felony charges.

A Combined Effort

The 3rd ID took a stand against Spice last September and our partners in the state legislature promptly followed suit with Chase’s Law. Spice has no place in the Army; now, Spice has no place in the State of Georgia.

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