Background Investigations

Drug Use While in a Public Trust Position

In an interesting Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals case, at issue was the marijuana use of a contractor who was working in a public trust position and subsequently applied for a security clearance. In 2008 for the public trust position she noted on her background investigation paperwork that she had used marijuana from 2003 to 2008 while in college. This issue was favorably adjudicated and she was cleared to work in the public trust position. Fast forward to 2013 when she filled out an SF-86 for a security clearance and disclosed new drug use information on the form stating she had used marijuana ten times between 2009 and 2013.

Now, everyone knows that if you work as a Federal contractor illegal drug use is bad, regardless of whether the state law allows it. In her case before the judge she argued that because marijuana use is no longer illegal in multiple states, and because the federal government itself has stated it will no longer pursue charges against recreational marijuana users, that denying her a clearance because of her marijuana use does not pass the common sense test.

Needless to say, the judge was unmoved by her reasoning and cited a memorandum issued by the Director Of National Intelligence in October 2014 that specifically addresses the fact that despite changes to state laws, marijuana use is still illegal under federal law. Add in the fact that she was serving in a public trust position and knew that illegal drug use was not condoned by her employer. Well, as you can imagine, the result is a no-brainer. Clearance denied!