ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Three more midshipmen have been expelled from the U.S. Naval Academy for using or possessing synthetic marijuana, bringing the total number of dismissals to 11 so far this year, the academy announced Thursday.

The expulsions equal the number of dismissals for drug policy violations in each of the last two calendar years. In 2010, 11 midshipmen were found in violation of the Navy drug policy, including seven for synthetic marijuana. In 2009, 11 students also were found in violation, but none of them involved synthetic marijuana possession.

Synthetic marijuana can be purchased legally but is banned by the Defense Department and the Navy, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is leading an investigation at the academy.

“An investigation remains ongoing and any additional allegations will be fully investigated,” Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, an academy spokesman, said in a statement. “Where allegations are substantiated, violators will be held accountable.”

Synthetic marijuana is sold in drug paraphernalia shops and on the Internet and marketed under various brands including Spice, K2, Blaze and Red X Dawn. The products contain organic leaves coated with chemicals that provide a marijuana-like high when smoked.

The academy has been trying to raise awareness about a growing trend of fake marijuana use. The superintendent and commandant have addressed the issue at school-wide forums. The academy also has increased computer monitoring of common synthetic drug websites, the school said in a statement.

The three recent students found to violate the school’s drug policy were expelled Tuesday. In all 11 cases this year, other midshipmen reported allegations to school leadership, the academy said.

“These recent separations are not reflective of the Brigade of Midshipmen as the vast majority uphold the highest standards of personal and professional conduct,” Carpenter said.

An emergency plan initiated by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration this month outlawed the sale of five chemicals used in herbal blends to make synthetic marijuana. The plan was announced in November in response to increasing reports of bad reactions to the chemicals, including seizures, hallucinations and dependency.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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