Security Clearance Denial

Marijuana Use as an Active Clearance Holder is Not Okay

Marijuana use is becoming more prevalent as the number of states that legalize its use for medical or recreational use increases. Some have legitimate reasons for getting a medical marijuana card, e.g., relieves anxiety from PTSD or chronic back pain. Other use marijuana just to get high or to obtain that feeling of euphoria. With this situation it is easy to understand why security professionals are seeing an uptick in the number of new security clearance applicants who disclose use on the SF-86. However, security professionals are also seeing long-time clearance holders, who have been briefed on illegal drug use (under federal law) and should know marijuana is still considered illegal, going out and experimenting with marijuana use for various reasons. A recent Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals case depicted exactly this type of scenario. Here is a quick summary:

This DoD contractor has had a clearance for over 20 years and is divorced, 51 years old, and employed as a network administrator. During a periodic reinvestigation in 2017 he disclosed having used marijuana at various times from 2013-17 while having an active security clearance. The use was for various reasons; treatment for sickle cell crisis episodes; birthday parties; cookouts; on a fishing trip; at a wedding. During interviews with investigators the applicant kept backtracking about the extent of use and when testifying in front of the appeals board, could not provide a consistent timeline of his illegal drug use. An easy decision for the DOHA judge; he opined no mitigation was provided for using illegal drugs after being granted a security clearance. You can read the entire case here.


  1. What will happen when MJ is decriminalized on the Federal level? I’m surprised there has not been some sort of lawsuit for having a clearance revoked. Maybe there has and just haven’t heard about it. I think for many, Ideas about MJ changed once you have kids. Just sayin!!

  2. Read the USN vs Egan ruling in 1988 (US Supreme Court).

  3. I think we will see federal decriminalization within the next 5 years. The government and contractors are missing out on hiring a lot of great new US technical talent that doesn’t want to wear a suit every day and commit to never using marijuana on their free time. Misuse/addiction of prescription meds is the real underground crisis nobody is seeing or talking about amongst the upstanding non-marijuana using crowd.