DENVER (Reuters) - Five U.S. Air Force Academy cadets have been expelled and another 25 are under investigation for using the drug “spice,” a synthetic substance that mimics the effects of marijuana, academy officials said on Friday.
The announcement by the academy, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, comes days after the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, expelled seven midshipmen for the use of spice.
In a news release, Air Force officials did not provide details on the gender or class the expelled cadets belonged to, saying just that the five cadets were “separated” from the academy and the investigation is ongoing.
Spice, also known as K2, and other synthetic marijuana products are marketed and sold as incense, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
The association reported a spike in the number of calls nationwide in 2010 about bad reactions to spice and marijuana-like products.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said spice and other so-called smokable herbs are plant material laced with chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
Last fall, The Air Force Office of Special Investigations launched its probe of cadets suspected of using spice.
A general order issued last April by academy superintendent Lt. Gen Michael Gould specifically warned the cadet wing against the use of spice or “inhaling household chemicals and other chemical inhalants and abusing over-the-counter medications.”
Gould said in a written statement on Friday that illegal drug use by cadets “threatens our military readiness.”
“The U.S. Air Force Academy has a zero tolerance regarding the use of these intoxicating substances, and certainly illegal drug use or possession,” Gould said.
If the 25 cadets under investigation, or any active-duty personnel who work at the academy, are found to have used substances banned by the military, they face “court-martial, non-judicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, reprimands and involuntary separation from the Air Force,” according to the release.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb