Marijuana and Security Clearance

Marijuana is one our most frequently discussed topics with regard to obtaining security clearance.

Any form of marijuana use is considered illegal by the Federal government. It does not matter if marijuana is legal in your state or the state where you used the drug. 

The Concern

Use of marijuana (and other substances that cause physical or mental impairment) can raise questions about a person’s reliability and trustworthiness. There is a concern about physical and psychological impairment AND because it raises questions about a person’s willingness or ability to comply with rules, laws and regulations.  

man discussing marijuana use with security clearance advisor

The SF86 form asks (applies to marijuana and any other illegal drug):

In the last seven (7) years, have you illegally used any drugs or controlled substances? Use of a drug or controlled substance includes injecting, snorting, inhaling, swallowing, experimenting with or otherwise consuming any drug or controlled substance.

In the last seven (7) years, have you been involved in the illegal purchase, manufacture, cultivation, trafficking, production, transfer, shipping, receiving, handling or sale of any drug or controlled substance? 

Have you EVER illegally used or otherwise been illegally involved with a drug or controlled substance while possessing a security clearance other than previously listed? 

Have you EVER illegally used or otherwise been involved with a drug or controlled substance while employed as a law enforcement officer, prosecutor, or courtroom official; or while in a position directly and immediately affecting the public safety other than previously listed? 

In the last seven (7) years have you intentionally engaged in the misuse of prescription drugs, regardless of whether or not the drugs were prescribed for you or someone else? 

Have you EVER been ordered, advised, or asked to seek counseling or treatment as a result of your illegal use of drugs or controlled substances? 

Have you EVER voluntarily sought counseling or treatment as a result of your use of a drug or controlled substance? 

Marijuana and CBD

A CBD product from a hemp (with under .3 percent THC) can be sold legally, which is why it’s become increasingly popular. Anything over the .3 percent THC is not legal. 

However, many/most of these products are not regulated in any way and there is no way for most consumers to determine the actual content of the products. Some studies have shown 60-70% of CBD products are not accurately labeled. Additionally, drug tests cannot tell the difference between use of a legal CBD product and illegal marijuana use. If you test positive you are left in the position to prove you haven’t used marijuana. 

Marijuana and security clearance mitigating factors

If you have used marijuana and you need to disclose the use on the SF86 form this does not mean you will denied a clearance. 

Part of the reason for the in-person interview is to explain your specific circumstances. During this process you want to explain why you used the drug the first time, why did you continue to use the drug (if applicable), and if you intend on ever using the drug in the future. If you do not intend using the drug in the future, you should explain why you have no intention… Simply saying you have no intention is not really a full explanation. 

Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include

 – How long ago did you use the drug

 – How infrequently did you use the drug

 – How likely are you to use the drug in the future

 – How does this past use reflect on your current reliability, trustworthiness and judgment. 

 – Do you acknowledge you past involvement 

 – Was abuse/misuse of prescription drugs after severe or prolonged illness during which these drugs were prescribed and the misuse/abuse has ended 

 – Have you provided evidence of actions taken to overcome addiction or dependence (if applicable) 

– stop hanging out or associating with other drug users

– changing your circumstances or environment (avoiding places where drugs are used or where you used them)

– have you successfully completed a treatment program