EVERETT, Wash. – A major drug investigation is under way at Naval Station Everett, the U.S. Navy confirmed Friday. Hundreds of sailors are being questioned, according to friends and family.
“Most of them are aware, if they are doing illegal drugs and they get caught, their career is over. But this is different," said the relative of one of those sailors who did not want to be identified.
It's different because the drug her relative admits using several months ago may have been legal at the time. "Spice" or "k2" is a synthetic form of marijuana banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration in March.
"I was told they could buy it at a cigar shop or a smoke shop and many of them did, obviously," the sailor’s relative said.
The DEA’s emergency ban followed stories like one in Seattle last December in which a driver who admitted he was smoking spice rammed several pedestrians at Seattle's Pike Place Market.
"Now, if they were caught using on the ship or after it was made illegal, that's one thing. But not (when it’s) retroactive,” the relative said.
The Navy said reports that hundreds of sailors are involved in the current investigation "may be exaggerated." However, the newly criminalized drug is a serious problem at Naval Station Everett. So far in the fiscal year 2011, 192 sailors have been held accountable for use or possession of spice or spice derivatives, a spokesperson said.
The Navy says it won’t be able to say more until the investigation is complete.
(Editor's Note: After this story aired the US Navy offered a clarification. It warned sailors in March 2010 that Spice was Illegal for military personnel to use or posses. The Navy also says that 192 sailors have been punished for using Spice throughout the US Navy, not just at Naval Station Everett.)