Airmen barred from three local smoke shops

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Up In Smoke employee Tasha Hicks said there are signs and warnings posted throughout the store cautioning people against ingesting incenses such as “spice” and Salvia. Tuesday, Cannon Air Force Base issued an order making three Clovis smoke shops off limits to airmen because of the herbs.

Sharna Johnson

Cannon airmen caught patronizing three local smoke shops selling herbal products that can be used to get high could face discharge from the military.

Cannon Air Force Base publicly released an order Tuesday forbidding airmen from entering The Smoke Shack, The Smoke Shack Too and Up In Smoke or using or purchasing products from them.

The herbal products in question include spice, salvia and pep.

“I am concerned that allowing military personnel to use these stores will threaten our readiness and ability to conduct the mission entrusted to us,” Col. Stephen Clark said in a July 9 memorandum to base personnel.

“… After considering the recommendation of the Cannon Air Force Base Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board, I hereby place The Smoke Shack, The Smoke Shack Too and Up in Smoke OFF-LIMITS indefinitely to all military service members assigned temporarily or permanently to Cannon Air Force Base.”

In January, a policy was enacted prohibiting airmen assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command from using the substances “salvia” and “spice,” according to a release from Cannon’s Public Affairs office.

Up In Smoke owner James Medina said the ban could eliminate up to 30 percent of his customers.

“It will hurt me,” Medina said.

Up In Smoke employee Tasha Hicks said spice, salvia and pep are legal, herbal incenses sold at the store and clearly marked “not for human consumption.”

Numerous signs posted around the store reiterate the message.

“(People) choose to abuse our product, just like alcohol or aerosol. We don’t condone that,” she said, adding, “Whatever they do outside the walls, we can’t control.”

Hicks said airmen come to the store often to use the store’s hookah lounge to smoke flavored tobacco through a water pipe.

And there are other products, including tobacco, available for purchase.

“It’s not really right that the Air Force can’t be allowed in here,” she said.

Store employees check customer identification, only allowing those over 18 because of tobacco laws, Hicks said, but it’s not their responsibility and they won’t be able to screen for military patrons.

“We’re not going to keep our products from them,” she said. “It’s their responsibility to not break the rules.”

The owner of The Smoke Shack and The Smoke Shack Too did not return calls seeking comment.

Spice, a mixture of herbs, and salvia divinorum are eaten or smoked to achieve a hallucinogenic high or a euphoric high similar to marijuana.

Airmen are already tested for salvia divinorum use through blood and urine samples, and a test is being developed to test for spice, the release said.

Penalties for airman range from loss of security clearance, demotion or even discharge.