WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Many Marines are not yet old enough to drink, but they are old enough to put their lives on the line for the country.
Marines from Camp Lejeune face danger in enemy territory, and also here at home. Some places you can go, are off limits to these Marines, declared so by the Commanding General "to help maintain good order, discipline, and an appropriate level of health, morale, safety, morals and welfare of Armed Forces personnel."
As of June 2015, a total of 27 places are on the official "Off Limits Establishments" list published by the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Most of them are businesses around the Jacksonville area, close to Camp Lejeune, but they stretch from Greenville, NC to Myrtle Beach, SC; four are from Wilmington.
"Members of the greater Camp Lejeune community, lieutenant commands or other commanders, may see something that concerns them with a business," said Col. Ian Ferguson, Command Inspector General at Camp Lejeune. "They will send letter up the chain of command saying, 'I think this business should be looked into or it should be put off limits.'"
Of the four businesses in Wilmington that are on the "Off Limits Establishments" list, three are still open:
- Althea's Attic, 420 Eastwood Road
- Expressions, 419 South College Road, #39
- MB Super Discount, 800 Shipyard Boulevard
Northern Lights Smoke Shop is also on the list, with an address of 4710 Market Street, but appears to be out of business.
All four of the businesses went "off limits" at the same time and for the same reason in February of 2013. At the time, service men and women could buy Spice at those businesses. Spice is one name for a synthetic form of marijuana that is now illegal in North Carolina and banned by the Department of Defense.
According to a military report, investigators with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) made controlled buys of Spice at those locations after receiving reports of Marines buying the product at the businesses.
Each business was recommended by the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board (AFDCB) to be placed on the "Off Limits Establishments" list.
The AFDCB sent a certified letter explaining the ruling to each business owner, and all were given an opportunity to appear before the board to discuss the allegation. Minutes from the February 2013 meeting show no representatives attended, and each business was then placed on the list.
"Most of our force is between the 18-24 year old age, that's the demographic of your young marine," Ferguson said. "They're still figuring things out, making decisions for themselves. The use of the 'off limits' list just assists them in making sound decisions. It's accessible. It's in the base newspaper, it's on the website, and marines can say, 'you know what, that's probably a place I don't want to go.'"
The AFDCB explains in the letter sent to each business owner that by "corrective action being taken," they can have their business removed from the base's "Off Limits Establishments" list. While owners or representatives from each Wilmington-area business told WECT they no longer sell Spice, their business remains on the list. Until this report, none had taken the action of contacting base officials to attend an AFDCB meeting to discuss it.
When contacted for this report, the owner of Althea's Attic said "we're not interested." Clerks at MB Super Discount said they'd have the owner call to discuss the allegation, but we still haven't heard back from the owner. A local co-owner of Expressions did not want to comment on the story, but did say he plans to do something about getting the business' name removed from the "Off Limits Establishments" list.
Until he does, Expressions, Althea's Attic and MB Super Discount will remain open to the public, but not to some of our public servants.
To see the current "Off Limits Establishments" list published by Camp Lejeune click here: http://bit.ly/1G7UJwL
If a Marine is caught in one of those off-limits establishments, they would be subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.