Security Clearance Denial

DOHA Appeals Involving Marijuana Use are on the Rise

Recently, I have noticed the number of appeals submitted to the Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA) where security clearance eligibility was denied based on marijuana use. It seems many applicants think because it is legal in their state or because it has been federally decriminalized, it is not an issue for them to get a security clearance and still use it. There has also been an uptick in current security clearance holders using marijuana despite numerous ODNI policy issuances warning them not to.

The ease with which to obtain marijuana and an increase in number of people using are contributing factors for the increase in security clearance revocations and denials. Here are highlights of recent DOHA cases were the denials were upheld based on marijuana use:

WRyan ckhile Applicant’s use of marijuana was not frequent, once 30 years ago and once in August 2020, but it was recent. Troubling is his claimed ignorance of his company’s drug policy for whom he has worked for over 30 years, while holding a security clearance for at least 18 of those years. He also failed to provide a signed statement of his intent not to use marijuana in the future.

Another applicant said he used marijuana from June 1994 (estimated), to February 2019, for recreational purposes on a daily basis for several months “interspersed with years of abstinence.” He did not use marijuana while holding a security clearance or a sensitive position. He said, “I do not want to jeopardize my career or national security. If this substance becomes permissible to use while employed with a secret clearance at some point, I may consider using it again.

Lastly, this applicant was a recreational substance abuser whose primary substance of choice was marijuana – a Schedule I Controlled Substance. He started casually smoking marijuana several times per week in November 2016 and continued such use through at least January 2020 when he completed his SF-86. At that time, he candidly indicated an intention to continue using marijuana in anticipation of such use becoming legalized.

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