Internship clearance

I would imagine this is a fairly common situation, but I recently received an unofficial offer of an internship with an embassy overseas and have some concerns about the security clearance process.

To preface, I don’t feel as though I am a concerning character in any regard; but I did make some mistakes and am thinking that they will cost me my clearance. I’d appreciate any insight or advice.

First, drug use: I have used some form of marijuana (smoking, edibles) 5 times since starting college. It was incredibly minimal and purely experimental each time. Regrettably, the last time was just over 2 weeks ago, before I had any idea about my internship acceptance. Although I intend never to do this again, I’m thinking this will be enough to get me denied.

In addition, I had some serious issues with my parents as a teen, that were provoked mainly by them but ended with me being forced into spending a week in an inpatient treatment facility, as well as being referred to a juvenile delinquency counselor: the issue was resolved, and no charges were pressed. I was 15. I have since had counseling on and off and was recently prescribed medication.

I’m wondering what I should do. A family member is adamant that I omit the drug use because I’m “not a pothead” (which I’m definitely very much not), but all advice I’ve heard says otherwise. Is the marijuana use enough to get me denied? Is the mental health situation? Do I have any hope of ever getting a clearance?

I’d greatly appreciate any advice. I’m deeply regretful and have cried over my mistakes already, but at this point I just want to move forward and accept my actions and their consequences. With that being said, if anyone thinks I stand a chance of being cleared for the internship, I’d really appreciate your help. This has been a dream of mine, and I foolishly did not realize how seriously the security clearance process could affect my acceptance.

First off, definitely do not omit the drug usage from your SF-86. Whether or not you’re a “pothead” (as your family member put it) or you used it once in the scope of the 10 years (I believe that’s the timeline… may be 7), you need to include it. The quickest way to guarantee your denial is to intentionally omit and try to conceal derogatory information. The reason the US government goes through such extensive clearance investigations is to make sure that you have no reasons to disclose classified information that you are trusted with, and having information in your background that you try to conceal is a HUGE red flag for this.

With that being said, there are no guarantees here. No one can tell you for certain whether or not you will be granted or denied a clearance. While I can’t speak to the mental health concerns (I have heard that they’re usually fairly forgiving with that kind of thing, but I cannot confirm or deny that), the drug usage will be a concern. The small amount of times that you’ve used (or so you say), isn’t necessarily the problem, but the recent use may be a concern. Regardless of which clearance level you’re going for, illegal drug usage within the last year, let alone in the last month, is definitely somewhat of a problem.

If I were to throw in my two cents, I would say that the drug usage so recently will be a problem, and that it is worth your consideration that a clearance denial can haunt you forever if you decide to further pursue cleared positions in the future.


I’ve gone through internship processes with DOS and other agencies and non of them are quick. You obviously smoked after applying to a government internship. If it is with DOS, they get hundreds of applicants and will simply pass over you and select someone who is more responsible and dedicated.


As others have stated…better to be safe than sorry and wait it out. Generally speaking, to be eligible for employment with 3 letter agencies, applicants must not have used illegal drugs within the past 12-24 months. My friend was in a similar situation as you coming out of college, but decided to wait it out for a year, then applied and got accepted. Being denied the clearance does not age well…do not risk it, and if you are in the process, I advise you to let them casually know you are no longer interested at this time…