Fort Drum, NY, Mar 19, 2012 — Fort Drum recently notified several businesses that they will be put off limits to soldiers if they continue to sell synthetic marijuana, products marketed as "herbal incense" and sold under names like Spice and K2.
Soldiers throughout the Army already face disciplinary action if they're caught using or possessing synthetic marijuana, but this measure would bring Fort Drum's substantial economic power to bear on businesses that make these products available in the area.
Fort Drum spokeswoman Julie Cupernall says use of the products among soldiers reflects use in the civilian community as well, but the drugs pose special problems for the military.
"Well, our soldiers are a cross-section of American culture. It's the same sort of problems you see outside the gates as well. Um, you know, it's been documented this can be very bad for your kidneys, heart, vascular issues. And then beyond that, if you're not at your highest mental faculties, if you're not able to think clearly, you are not being an effective soldier."
One business, the High Life on Route 11, is already off limits to soldiers and has been for about a year, after it refused to quit selling synthetic pot.
Fort Drum hasn't released the names of the other businesses threatened with addition to the off-limits list. Cupernall says the post wants to give the stores a chance to pull the products before causing them negative publicity.
"We want to give the businesses every chance to do what we consider the right thing. So if they change their inventory, if they meet our requirements, we're good."
Cupernall says many soldiers are young and at a time in their lives when they may not make the best long-term decisions for their health and well-being.
"I remember being that age and perhaps not always making the best long-term decisions for some short-term fun. It's hard to hold that against somebody in that age frame, you know, you get it, I understand it, but at the same time too, they need to be held to a higher standard. They are soldiers in the United States Army, so these are actions that we're taking to ensure that we're doing everything we can do to help them make the very best decisions."
The FDA has banned particular chemicals that are used in synthetic pot, but makers of the drugs have simply changed their formulas to get around the bans. To combat the drugs in New York, State Senator Patty Ritchie recently sponsored legislation to ban any drug that mimics the effects of marijuana on the brain.
"I think that her efforts in conjunction with our efforts to put businesses that sell synthetic marijuana off limits to soldiers, I think that speaks volumes about the level of concern that is growing in Northern New York."