The U.S. military doesn’t have a universal ban on so-called "legal" drugs in mainland Japan and Okinawa. It’s up to base commanders to issue specific orders making use and possession of these substances illegal.
In general, however, troops who show up for work intoxicated can be charged with dereliction of duty under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Punishment varies from punitive discharges to confinement of up to several years.
The military cannot punish Defense Department civilians and family members for using the drugs, but it can revoke command sponsorship, bar them from installations and report instances to a government employer, legal officials said.
U.S. Forces Japan said it doesn’t track cases involving use of the drugs by base community members and deferred to installation officials.
"It’s not known how widespread the problem is in the Tokyo area," said Lt. Col. Mark Milam, 374th Airlift Wing Staff Judge Advocate at Yokota Air Base, Japan. "We have some documented use by airmen and dependents."
The products are not illegal to possess in Japanese society at large, he said, but they are at Yokota.
In late February, the base officially outlawed Salvia, Zohai and Spice after officials noticed an increase in possession and use by base personnel. The order applies to active-duty servicemembers, dependents, DOD civilians and contractors, and visitors.
It followed a move by Kadena Air Base’s 18th Wing on Okinawa, which declared Salvia off limits to all its military members in January.
Last September, Marine Corps Bases Japan prohibited the use, possession and distribution of certain plants and substances marketed as "legal highs." The order was "in response to a growing trend of abusing legally obtained substances to produce mind-altering experiences," a Marine Corps news release said.
U.S. Army Japan has no policy letter covering synthetic or designer drugs and there is no documented misuse by soldiers, said Maj. Jim Crawford, a command spokesman at Camp Zama, Japan.
Chief Petty Officer Michael Raney, the Regional Alcohol Drug Control Officer for Commander, Naval Forces Japan, said any substance used to "get high" can be grounds for disciplinary action or administrative separation.
"There are drugs and ‘naturally occurring’ alternatives the Navy does not test for, but sailors can still be processed out of the Navy for using these substances," he said.
Salvia’s presence on U.S. ships and bases led the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to develop a urinalysis for it, The New York Times reported last September. But it’s only doing about 50 tests a month.
Late last summer, a petty officer second class was kicked out for bringing Spice into mainland Japan and Okinawa, according to Raney.
The types of so-called legal drugs found in Japan are not an issue on the Korean peninsula, said Dave Palmer, a U.S. Forces Korea spokesman. But all South Korean drugstores and pharmacies are off-limits to military personnel, because they sell medicines over the counter that require a prescription on base or in the United States.
U.S. officials in Japan said drug tests can be set to screen for many different substances, but it’s unclear whether legal hallucinogens are detectable due to the various elements in use.
Stars and Stripes reporter Teri Weaver contributed to this report.
By Vince Little, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Referenced NYTimes article is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/09/us/09salvia.html?emc=eta1