Synthetic marijuana or Spice - a herbal potpourri sprayed with chemicals to induce cannabis-like effects - appears to have been used widely and often by midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy according to a recent report from The Washington Post.

Several former midshipmen have admitted to the frequent use on campus of the drug, which is banned by the U.S. military and even in its service academies plus in around 18 states, though Maryland is yet to join that list. Several countries also have a blanket ban on smoking of the drug.

Sold as expensive herbal incense or bath salts at gas stations and head shops, Spice, also called K2, is not difficult to obtain and is technically considered legal in many states. However, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has banned five variations and added them to its list of illegal drugs in the most restrictive category; some states are moving fast and steadily to outlaw it because of its growing popularity and the resulting hazards to public health.The Denver Post quoted Michele Leonhart, Administrator at the DEA, as saying, Young people are being harmed when they smoke these dangerous 'fake pot' products and wrongly equate the products' 'legal' retail availability with being 'safe.' 

The Naval Academy's policy on alcohol and drug use clearly lays down that The use of illegal drugs is strictly forbidden and results in expulsion from the Academy. As a midshipman, you are subject to random drug testing through urinalysis, consistent with Navy-wide policies and procedures. However the frequent use of Spice on campus has probably gained ground as the chemicals in this concoction can escape detection in random urine tests.

Midshipmen in conversation with The Post (on conditions of anonymity) have said that it takes the stress away from the Academy life and ever since its introduction by one senior student in 2010 has found a good number of adopters, who either ordered it online or arranged shipments from friends, masked in hollowed-out books, chips cans or water bottles with removable bases.

The matter came to light when one smoker on campus went into seizures following smoking of Spice a few months back and a fellow midshipman in panic revealed the use of the drug to the rescuers. Since then, detailed investigations into suspected use of the drug have led to the expulsion of eight midshipmen. Sources expect the number to rise as investigations proceed.