NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP/WTNH) - The U.S. Coast Guard Academy said Monday that it is kicking out 14 cadets for using synthetic marijuana, a forbidden substance that has stirred concern across the U.S. military.
The cadets, who were under investigation for several months, were the first at the academy to face disciplinary proceedings for abuse of the herbal mix, according to academy spokesman David Santos. He said another eight cadets are still under investigation.
The academy's superintendent, Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, said officials were disappointed with the cadets' conduct.
"As a military institution, we hold cadets to the highest standards of conduct and go to great lengths to ensure those standards are clearly understood and strictly enforced," she said.
The 14 cadets represent a mix of class years and backgrounds, Santos said. They have a right to appeal their expulsion to the Assistant Commandant for Human Resources at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington.
So-called "synthetic" pot is readily available on the Internet and has become popular nationwide in recent years, but its use among troops and sailors has raised concerns among the Pentagon brass. The herbal mix, which mimics a marijuana high, is hard to detect and can bring on hallucinations that last for days.
The abuse of the substance has so alarmed military officials that they've launched an aggressive testing program that last year led to the investigation of more than 1,100 suspected users.
Synthetic marijuana, also known as "Spice," is made up of exotic plants from Asia like Blue Lotus and Bay Bean. Their leaves are coated with chemicals that mimic the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, but are five to 200 times more potent.
More than 40 states have banned some of its chemicals, prompting sellers to turn to the Internet, where it is marketed as incense or potpourri.
In some states, Spice is sold at bars, smoke shops and convenience stores. However, that's about to change.
In July the governor signed a law making it illegal to sell synthetic marijuana and salvia divinorum, a more hallucinogenic herb.
Once the regulation process is complete salvia and "Spice" will be taken off store shelves.
"Well if it's a controlled substance then it can't be sold," said Sen. Andrea Stillman.
In addition to the 14 cadets already busted, eight more are being investigated for their alleged use of synthetic marijuana.
The 14 facing expulsion have five days to appeal it.
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