Twenty-five Air Force Academy cadets are under investigation for using a legal but intoxicating substance known as "Spice" that has been prohibited by the superintendent, a spokesman said Friday.
“Consistent with Air Force policy and instructions, the U.S. Air Force Academy has a zero tolerance policy regarding the use of these intoxicating substances, and certainly illegal drug use or possession,” academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould said in a statement.
“The abuse of these products by military members, cadets and cadet candidates contradicts the nature of the profession of arms, threatens our military readiness and impairs our responsibilities to the Air Force and our Nation,” he added.
Spice, or “K2,” contains synthetic cannabinoids said to give the user a marijuana-like high. Sold in shops and online as incense, it is smoked as a legal alternative to marijuana.
The substance gained wide exposure after a video hit the Internet showing “Hannah Montana” star Miley Cyrus smoking it from a pipe and giggling uncontrollably.
Some media reports suggested sales of the herbal drug rose after the video went viral on the Web.
In November, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a notice of intent to add five chemicals used in products like “Spice” to a list of banned drugs that includes heroin and marijuana.
If such an action is taken, anyone who sells, uses or possesses the substance will be subject to federal prosecution.
“It could happen anytime. It could be as early as next week,” said Mike Turner, a DEA agent and spokesman.
Since Gould issued an order in April banning its use, five cadets have been kicked out of the academy for disobeying – all of them sophomores.
Lt. Col. John Bryan, an academy spokesman, declined to give the ages of the cadets under investigation or say how academy officials managed to identify them given that typical drug screens do not turn up chemicals in the drugs.
All cadets are subject to random or commander-initiated urinalysis tests to screen for illegal drug use, academy officials said.
Vehicles on the military installation may be searched at anytime.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations began investigating Spice use among cadets late last year. Cadets caught using it can be court-martialed, the academy's news release stated.
"The recent separations and the use of Spice by a few of our cadets is not the behavior we expect of America's future Air Force and world leaders and is not reflective of the highest standards we hold true to every day, said Brig. Gen. Richard Clark, academy commandant of cadets.
Gazette writer Lance Benzel contributed to this story.