Security Clearance Denial

Intent to Keep Using Illegal Drugs = Public Trust Denial

It would be safe to say that most, if not all, government workers know that using drugs is not copasetic or in line with the Drug-Free Federal Workplace policy. This applies to all tiers of investigations, not just security clearance applicants. When I find Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals cases where the applicant states they intend to keep using drugs, I shake my head and wonder, “what were they thinking?”  Here are the highlights of one such appeal:

The applicant applied for a public trust position with a defense contractor for whom he has worked in other positions since 2010. The DoD denied him eligibility for the position based on his self-admitted illegal drug use listed on the SF-85P application. Specifically, he listed using marijuana from 1998 to 2019 and hallucinogenic mushrooms from 2021-22. During his security interview with the background investigator, he was asked when the last time was that he had used illegal drugs. His answer? “I have not decided to stop using marijuana or mushrooms at this time.”  He further stated he uses marijuana as a stress reliever and the mushrooms give him a pleasant experience that wears off in a few hours, much more manageable than drinking alcohol.

Given the fact that the applicant stated his intent to continue using illegal drugs, one has to wonder why he even bothered to submit an appeal. This case was a slam-dunk from the beginning, so no surprise at the judge upholding the denial for eligibility to hold a public trust position. Still shaking my head on this one. You can read the entire case summary here.


  1. I have had some subjects that I definitely wondered about their responses to my questions and I repeated back their response to be sure I understood the reply correctly lol. I just drive away from the interview shaking my head.

  2. When I’ve run into this it has usually been for a subject who works for a government contractor that has recently been determined to need public trust. Usually the subject has worked for the company for years and doesn’t really understand the public trust process or why they need it. I always ensure that they understand that illegal drug use isn’t compatible with public trust positions. Then they tell me that they understand but they are going to continue using THC because they need it for their PTSD, anxiety, sleep issues etc. I always appreciate the fact that they were honest about their intent.

  3. Lots of Idiots these days don’t understand that just because marijuana is legal in their state for medical or recreational use doesn’t mean it’s legal for feds and that using with a clearance is even much more frowned upon.

    Crazy story, i have sleep issues from PTSD and depression from military and i was “Flagged” by CIA medical Officer because one of the meds i am prescribed by VA for sleep is an Anti-psychotic. The doctor who flagged it was not familiar with it, luckily her husband worked at VA and recognized it as a drug used for sleep and so he told her about it. I was cleared but as you see, it is very subjective on knowledge-base of a doctor even when it’s a legally prescribed “drug”.

  4. “Idiots”? What a disrespectful term to use.

  5. I was thinking this. Alternatively, some folks who have this happen don’t want to quit their long time job or lie to the government, so they could just be saying “f it” to quitting (the job or thc) for unemployment eligibility reasons.

  6. That’s what they are. The issue i referenced is a “No brainer”.

  7. Our legislators need to legalize these substances so that we can stop having these arguments. It’s like the applicant said, he “found the experience very pleasant and it wears off in a couple of hours, much more easily to manage than drinking alcohol,” but alcohol doesn’t mean immediate disqualification.

  8. The average person filling out their e-APP (e-QIP) for the first time are not typically familiar with federal law. Often, younger individuals. That being said, due to state laws on medical & recreational use- the issues are mitigated. What’s important is that they are honest and listed on the form. It’s disrespectful and judgemental to refer to others as idiots.

  9. That’s not an excuse for not knowing a drug is illegal.

  10. Again the fact is, some drugs are legal by state and medical prescription. Some people have ZERO knowledge of federal law.