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17 US soldiers caught with banned drugs in foreign country

Aerial photo of Camp Humphreys in South Korea. (U.S. Army/Released)
September 20, 2023

A joint raid by the Pyeongtaek Police Station and the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division has resulted in the investigation of 22 individuals, including 17 U.S. soldiers, for the alleged possession and intended distribution of synthetic cannabis in South Korea.

According to a Southern Gyeonggi Provincial Police Office press release reviewed by Stars and Stripes on Wednesday, the joint raid, which took place in May, resulted in the combined discovery of 2.7 ounces of synthetic cannabis, more than 145 ounces of “mixed liquids” used for vaping, and $12,850 in cash between the 22 homes of the suspects.

According to CNN, the press release indicated that the police conducted search and seizure operations at both Camp Humphreys and Camp Casey following an intelligence tip from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division. Camp Humphreys is the largest U.S. military base located outside of the United States.

South Korean police told CNN that a South Korean and a Filipino were arrested as part of the synthetic cannabis investigation and transferred to prosecution for indictment, while the other 20 individuals, including the 17 U.S. soldiers, were questioned without detainment.

According to statements South Korean police made to Stars and Stripes, the 22 suspects are believed to have possessed or trafficked the synthetic cannabis between the months of March and August.

Police indicated that one male U.S. soldier, age 24, allegedly smuggled roughly 11 ounces of synthetic cannabis into South Korea by using plastic bottles.

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According to the press release obtained by Stars and Stripes, synthetic cannabis “is not easy to detect” as a result of its use in legal e-cigarette devices. The South Korean police credited the joint operation with U.S. Army investigators for the success of the search and seizure of the synthetic cannabis.

“The police have declared a war on drug crimes and are focusing their investigative efforts to respond vigorously,” the press release said. “In the future, we will continue to investigate U.S. military personnel … with the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.”

According to Stars and Stripes, synthetic cannabis is currently banned by both the U.S. military and South Korea’s Narcotics Control Act. South Korean law mandates a minimum five-year prison sentence for a narcotics trafficking conviction, while a drug possession conviction has a maximum sentence of either a five-year prison sentence or a fine of about $38,200.