Recent grad here. Is my drug usage too recent (17 months ago) for a security clearance? How detailed should I be?

I just graduated in Electrical Engineering in July 2016, and I just started working a few weeks ago at a defense contractor. I need to get a security clearance which could probably take several months. The job clearly states that I need to be able to obtain a security clearance. They didn’t really specify any deadline for it. Right now I’m just working on uncleared stuff involving hardware engineering. I’m done filling out the E-QIP and will be turning it in soon.

My problem is I’ve used marijuana plenty of times in college, probably 15 to 20 times, spanning from 2010 to 2015. Most of it is spanning from 2010 to 2014 at random times. I smoked once in September 2015. I’ve also tried ecstasy in 2013 at a rave. I’ve been clean since September 2015. The rest of the form was a breeze to fill out. No arrests/foreign affiliations/etc.

I wrote all of this on my online form except much more detailed. I don’t know if my detailed explanation is too much though. I feel like my truthfulness is going to hurt me, however, I’ve been told to be as truthful as possible. I wrote a detailed explanation on things that could mitigate this. This is my first time dealing with this and I’m fearful of losing my first job outside if I can’t get a clearance. Don’t want to go back to flipping burgers!!!


Your truthfulness will pay off in the long run. Even if you get denied this time (and I’m not saying you will) if you apply again in a year or so you should be fine.

If you really have been clean since September 2015, you might have a shot if it takes them a while to get around to doing the investigation. My rule of thumb is two years since last use, but that is a very unofficial rule.

Hopefully your employer has other unclassified work for you, in any event, it could take a while to sort this out. In this case, time is on your side.

1 Like

What do you think my chances are? This is for a Secret clearance by the way, if that makes a difference (I don’t know). I’m really starting to beat myself over the head for doing those things in college.

Yeah, just be truthful. This is not all that uncommon for kids in college and is something adjudicators see all the time. And be sure to express to your investigator the same motivation and intention never to use drugs again that you expressed here.

1 Like

I’m in a similar position, graduated in May 2016, with some very experimental use in college. 2 years clear before my application. In my case, I hired a clearance lawyer to help me on those parts with the EQIP. They put a lot of good stuff about mitigation in there, and should be able to mitigate it completely. I have been waiting since August for my secret, and have not heard any news about it since september. I was denied an interim clearance, and you will almost certainly be denied it too. So strap in for the wait, govt workers are prioritized over defense contractors and it seems to be taking over 200 days. You’re lucky you’re able to work there even on unclassified work, my contractor won’t let me start till the full clearance.

And you definitely would be totally screwed if you lied on it, electrical engies almost always eventually end up getting TS clearance and failing the poly would end your career

1 Like

With no criminal or financial problems and your intent to never use again because of your future career, I’d say you probably have a good chance of getting the clearance. You’re going to get an interview with an investigator who is going to discuss this stuff with you. Express to him or her what you’ve expressed here.

1 Like

Is hiring a consultant who deals with clearances a worthwhile investment? I’m not sure how much they cost and where to find the right one for me. I don’t have much money since I just started. I’m pretty sure the drug usage is my only problem.

If you used 2 years prior to your application, and was denied interim, this is most certainly terrible for me :sweat:. I’m just hoping I can work as long as possible without a clearance at this point. I have a project that spans until the end of December so I hope it will clear up by then.

There is nothing that an attorney can do for you at this point in time. If you get a statement of reasons intending to deny your clearance eligibility then you might consider legal advice, but even then they really cannot influence the powers that be to change their mind about giving you a clearance. They are more for providing advice on what and how to submit information in an appeal that would mitigate the issues.

1 Like

Thanks for the response. I was thinking more on the lines of the person looks over my form for completeness to hopefully speed up the process. Also help me potentially mitigate the drug problem. I still have time to complete the form. But I’m not sure if that is worth the money. I looked through the website where they show people who already went through the process, and it looks like I’m most likely going to get an SOR…

I would say you have a pretty good shot of getting the clearance as long as you’re truthful, include all mitigating factors (duration of use, circumstances, etc). You will definitely be denied an interim, as you have to have a totally clear SF86 for them to even consider it (many clean backgrounds get denied too). I had my council look over and write some responses to my EQIP questions. It cost $500 to do the responses. They run about $1,000 as a response to an SOR. I figure it is a worthwhile investment for a lifelong career, and will save you time and money appealing if they send you an SOR and stuff. If you want to drop an email address I’ll send you a sample of what was written for me.

Do you mean responses to an SOR? Because they should be no reason on earth to have a lawyer fill out your eQIP. What am I missing here?

I contacted them for consultation and for assistance filling the explanation and optional fields. They provided very good responses that I’m confident will provide sufficient explanation of mitigating factors to avoid the SOR. They have experience doing this and know what the adjudicators are looking for. If you are confident you know enough about the guidelines and think you can convince them without the experience writing SOR letters, etc, then I wouldn’t use a lawyer for assistence.

1 Like

Well if it worked for you that’s what is important.

A well written narrative explanation of applicable mitigating factors in the appropriate “Add Optional Comment” text field of the e-QIP version of the SF86 can make the difference in being granted an interim clearance. Right now an interim Secret clearance for a defense contractor is taking a couple of months, but a final Secret clearance will take 6 to 12 months (or more) depending on the seriousness of the issues present in the case. I’ve had clients who received interim clearance with drug use similar to yours (occasional use of marijuana and experimental use of one other drug), except the last use was at least 26 months prior to submitting the SF86. With only 17 months of abstinence an interim clearance may be beyond your reach but I think you have a good chance of receiving a final clearance. $1000 seems high to edit/rewrite a 600 to 800 word narrative explanation. Absent any other problems in your background I don’t think your case will result in an SOR, but typically an SOR response by a professional can cost from $2,500 to $6,000 and representation at hearing, if necessary, will be an additional cost.


I think you will be okay. My client is strict in not accepting any drug use within 12 months. Even for those fresh out of high school seeking a cleared entry level position (plenty of these support jobs out there). Likewise for college aged folks just graduating. Expect the ecstasy/pot/Ritalin/Adderall questions. Honesty is everything. We have lost employees who tried covering up minor pot use on the Secret clearance SF 86, and then later being completely honest on the TS SCI Poly SF 86. Or they continue to deny on the Poly. Those suffering through them know how nerve wracking it is.

Bottom line: be honest and continue being honest. Better to be turned down initially or put on pause for 6 months, taking longer in the process than to ever try working through a revocation or declination.

1 Like

@xylophone pay attention to what @willam-henderson says, he knows what he is talking about.

Thanks for the response @willam-henderson @amberbunny. I just read some stuff on . The articles with people with prior drug use who were granted a security clearance were first issued an SOR before they got the clearance. Am I missing something here? Some people had less MJ usage than I did… Now I’m starting to freak out.

I wouldn’t be alarmed unless there is prescription drug abuse. A minimum of 12 months is necessary but clearance folks have asked us to pull back packages for folks until there have been at least 18 months with no use. That happened on two packages where they mentioned taking an 800mg Motrin pill. It should be noted this is the minimum strength given by military hospitals and it seems excessive to people unfamiliar with this. I don’t see it as abusing motrin as it is available over the counter as Ibuprofen but the dosage is much higher than civilian dosing.