Applying for My Former Public Trust (SF-85) Position After Entheogen Use

I’m hoping for guidance as I apply for a federal job I held until earlier this year, given that I have used an entheogen (a psychedelic drug used for a spiritual/religious purpose) in the past year, which the government may or may not deem illegal.

Until earlier this year, I was a tenured federal employee whose job required a public trust investigation (with an SF-85). At the time I first applied for the job, I truthfully stated that I had not used illegal drugs in the preceding year, and I have not encountered any issues with that topic until now.

Earlier this year, I needed to quit my federal job for personal reasons, but now I am applying to get my old job back. I am assuming I’ll need to fill out an SF-85 if offered the job, even though I would not have been due for my next background investigation until more than a year from now if I hadn’t. The tricky issue is that within the last year (while still employed, and also fairly recently before I decided to try to go back to my old job), I used an entheogen multiple times. I prefer not to say which substance, but it is a Schedule I controlled substance and a psychedelic drug so, for most purposes, illegal.

The one thing that keeps me from concluding that my entheogen use was illegal is a Supreme Court case, Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006), which permitted members of a religious group to use a Schedule I psychedelic substance under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That case involved ayahuasca (which contains DMT), and that is similar to but not the same substance I used. But I read the case to imply that uses of similar psychedelic substances as part of a spiritual/religious practice may be deemed legal by the courts. Unfortunately, I am not a lawyer with expertise in such matters, so I don’t know how strong my legal footing is here.

Given that state of affairs, I’m not sure how to fill in an SF-85 if I indeed have to fill out another one to get the job back that I worked in until less than a year ago. (If I don’t need to fill out an SF-85 until five years from my last public trust investigation, then I’m in the clear either way because I intend not to use the aforementioned substance anymore, so I would without concern or doubt be able to honestly say that I have not used illegal drugs in the then-preceding year.)

Here are the main options I’m considering at this stage:

Option 1: Answer “No” (indicating an absence of illegal drug use in the last year) without saying anything further. Thus, I would be giving myself the benefit of the doubt as to whether that Supreme Court case would cover my situation. If it applies, then my use of the substance in question was legal and therefore requires no disclosure. My biggest concerns about this are (1) my lack of certainty on the legal applicability of that Supreme Court case and (2) what would happen if my government employer found out about my entheogen use and took the contrary position that it was illegal.

Option 2: Leaving the “Yes” and “No” boxes blank, and handwriting “unsure” or something like that next to those boxes. Then below, I could identify the substance I used, identify the date range of use, and then, under explanation, write something like, “limited spiritual/religious use that may be protected by Gonzalez v. UDV, 546 U.S. 418 (2006); intend not to use going forward”

Those are, of course, not the only options, and I am open to suggestion.

Here are my questions to the forum (but feel free to address anything else you think could be helpful):

  1. Do you believe I’ll even be asked to fill out an SF-85 given that I held the job until earlier this year and, if I hadn’t quit, would not have been due for my next background investigation until more than a year from now?

  2. If I went with Option 1, what would happen if my employer found out about my entheogen use and concluded that it was illegal? Would I lose my job? Would I be prosecuted for “knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact”?

  3. How do you see Option 2 playing out if I go that route?

  4. How would you advise me to proceed and why? (Whether Option 1, Option 2, or something else) And what do you see as the likely consequences of proceeding that way?

I’m grateful for any helpful replies!

Why don’t you just answer “Yes” to the question, since you know it to be true? You can then bring up the case that you cited earlier.

People can find a way to justify anything.