Security Clearance Denial

Contractor Overcomes Drug Use and Lack of Candor to Keep Clearance

Many on this forum ask how long is long enough after the last use of illegal drugs. There is no set timeline for adjudicators to use. It depends on several factors: circumstances; age; type; recency; and probability of reoccurrence. A recent Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA) case involved illegal drug use in college while holding a security clearance and a lack of candor in not disclosing it on the SF-86 when she first applied for a clearance. Here is a summary of the case:

The applicant was in college in 2013 and applied for a DoD contractor internship which required a security clearance. At that time she did not disclose any illegal drug use and was granted a security clearance. Over the next two summer internships with the contractor she did not use illegal drugs, but while in school during the college semesters she used marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy. In 2015 she continued as full-time employee with the same DoD contractor and in 2017 she was transferred to a new position that required keeping her clearance. She went to her Facility Security Officer and self-reported her drug use, and as required, the FSO created an incident report in JPAS that led to a review of her eligibility and an initial determination that her clearance should be revoked.

The applicant subsequently submitted an appeal to DOHA. The presiding judge opined the applicant had mitigated her illegal drug use by accepting responsibility for her actions and self-reporting, removing herself from environments where drugs were used, and attesting to never using illegal drugs again. The judge also inferred that she was young, in college at the time, and didn’t fully understand the security clearance process and ramifications of not providing accurate information. Although she admitted she was afraid of not getting the internship at the time, she was only thinking in the short-term during finals for the semester and how to get through it all.

In my opinion the judge was quite lenient in this case. The applicant used multiple types of illegal drugs from 2011 to as recently as 2016. Regardless of her intent, she obtained an internship with a DoD contractor based on false information and used illegal drugs while holding a security clearance. It seemed to me the judge put more weight into the applicant’s own claims of abstinence, immaturity at the time, and future intent rather than the facts of the case resulting in the initial denial. In any event, this is an example of how to overcome drug involvement and personal conduct (lack of candor) issues.


  1. she must have been very good looking. This judge may have been swayed by this.

  2. Hi Marko,

    Is there a case reference/number that we can access to read in full.

  3. Hyperlink appears to not be working, go here:

  4. WoW! That is an incredible decision and situation that many people on this forum have one time or another found themselves in. Here is my question going forward because the judge ruled in such manner does this apply to all cases regarding drug use or personal conduct issues?

  5. No, this is a case by case basis.

  6. It does seem absurd a sprinkle of MJ use can result in denial…but clearly as shown here even using after cleared…with right judge…can be overcome.

    Hence why best answer, aggravating as it is…“it depends”. Human factor judging, agency differences…the times…need for a skill set…empathetic or hard line judge…

  7. How can there be such discrepancies in the way security clearance decisions are made? I was denied suitability for MJ and psychedelics usage in college, ten years in the past. I can understand applicants being held to high standards, but the fact that there is such a wide range of decisions about seemingly much more egregious behavior just seems…well, wrong?

  8. Were you denied a clearance? Did you receive an SOR?

  9. Nope, suitability, but was given the chance to receive extra information about the decision.

  10. The organization that you applied to could have very picky standards when it comes to suitability. This person was denied their clearance and was able to receive a favorable adjudication by appealing through DOHA. I dont think you get that option. It is really two different things.