HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- As citywide and countywide bans on spice move forward throughout the Top of Utah, officials at Hill Air Force Base continue to monitor the substance closely.
Since Jan. 1, 2009, there have been 27 nonjudicial punishment actions at Hill for drug use and/or use of mind-altering substances.
Of those punishment actions, 17 were handed down to active-duty airmen for the use of spice, or use of another mind-altering botanical incense.
A legal incense that produces a marijuana-like high when smoked, spice is distributed under the names Spice, Spice Gold, Spice Diamond, Spice Silver, Spice Arctic Energy, K-Z, Black Mamba, Puff and Sugar Sticks.
Over the past few weeks, the substance was banned by many cities in Weber and Davis counties, but it has long been illegal to airmen at Hill.
According to Air Force Instruction 44-121, paragraph 3.5.6, the service prohibits "the knowing use of any intoxicating substance, other than the lawful use of alcohol or tobacco products, that is inhaled, injected, consumed, or introduced into the body in any manner to alter mood or function."
In addition to the Air Force code, the base also released an installation-wide policy letter in November of 2009 declaring the use of spice by airmen illegal.
"Even prior to the policy letter at Hill," said Col. Patrick Higby, commander of the 75th Air Base Wing, "the use of any intoxicating substance, other than alcohol, (has been illegal)."
Capt. Leah Watson, an attorney at Hill, said airmen caught using spice face a maximum punishment for a violation of a dishonorable discharge, or confinement for two years, total forfeiture of pay for two years, or a reduction in rank.
At the lower end of the punishment scale, airman could receive a letter of counseling, admonition or reprimand.
"All of these options are available to a commander when determining the appropriate disposition of a case," Watson said.
Interestingly, as spice has yet to be banned by the state or federal government and because Hill is a federal installation, it is not illegal for civilians to possess the substance.
"It is not a crime for a civilian to use or possess botanical incense under the current state and federal law," Watson said.
Higby said base officials are aware of the bans currently being executed across the Top of Utah and said the substance's illegality will hopefully make it less available to airmen at Hill.
"We hope these ordinances will help," he said.
"But our base policy will remain unchanged, and we'll continue to be vigilant to ensure our airmen are doing the right thing by not using spice or other similar products."