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

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.

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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.

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@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.

how can i see The SOR you mentioned here?

After reading multiple posts it seems there are many people who have experimented with illegal drugs and in the same boat as me. I currently am filing out my eQIP. After the military I used Marijuana for a 2 month period in Nov. 2012 and used Mushrooms one time in the same month. I have of course disclosed everything and this is my only area of concern. Since I used it in 2012 I have gone on to start and complete my degree, start a family and have good jobs increasing in responsibility. All of this I have tried to explain to the best of my ability on my SF86. In your experience what are the chances of getting a favorable on my clearance.

Very good unless you are applying for an FBI, CIA, DHS/CBP, DEA, or a few other IC agencies.


Even for those agencies it may depend on the position. Any armed law enforcement position, you would more than likely be automatically DQ’'d for. But there are lots of folks in the intel world who have some limited drug use in their past. It depends on how long ago, how old you were, frequency of use, any involvement in sale, etc etc etc.

But there was one person, can’t remember if it was on this forum or another site that I troll, who said they were in process for a low-level clerical type job with DHS and was disqualified for drug use due to a zero-tolerance policy.

Yeah, for cbp i had even less than that and got denied. CBP ZEROOOO DRUGS. This is for anyone reading in the future. My SOR said they had an absolute zero policy on drugs because of the line of work. As more of this generation experiments with drugs, (I recently graduated in 2014) i feel like they will have to eventually soften though because it looks very common now. I barely even made it out of the packet review before getting denied. I guess they just scanned the drugs section and said no.

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@Smityj15 so that was you? Maybe I misunderstood what kind of job it was, I went back and looked and it was a contractor job? Who denied you, the contractor or CBP? You said SOR but that would come at the end of a long painful process.

Many contractors do a pre-screen and drop anyone who looks like they might have any issues at all. They know it could be a long time getting folks cleared. Very risk-avoidant.

Yeah that was me. It was a contractor. An employee referred me, and my app went in to the official cbp and dhs heads where they denied me. It took 3 months, no references or family contacted, nothing pulled from credit. It took 3 months for them to read I smoked weed 2 to 3 times in college and deny me. I Someone emailed me that I was going to be denied, sent my SOR over email password protected which listed why I was going to get denied and that I can send an appeals email straight to the adjudicator and gave me the email address. I sent it and the next day my program manager called and said I was not cleared. Mind you this was an SSBI. So I would not have had a real actual clearance, just vetting for a top secret clearance.

I was a little confused, I don’t have any experience with DHS and in DoD world a Statement of Reasons (SOR) comes from a centralized adjudication facility and not til the end of the whole ordeal… sounds like DHS runs things a little differently because they are able to adjudicate their own stuff.

Thanks for the info.

Yeah DHS was so unorganized and confusing. I’m doing another clearance with OPM and NBIB and they are so good at getting information in and responding properly with accurate information. I mean dhs told me it would take 6 weeks to get cleared. HA!

We’ve kinda hijacked the thread here but…

I was looking at a contractor jobs listing once and they had a bunch of jobs with DHS.

Most of them required full lifestyle poly!


lol yeah they are so far up their own but man its insane. Almost everything there requires a poly. It must be really hard to get positions filled quickly. It’s really intense and frustrating since they are their own separate thing. I had to scour this website for even minimal info.

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Still dominating the discussion here but I came across something… a DHS IG report saying that CBP wasted money by conducting polygraph exams on people who had already admitted to disqualifying activities.

This is an interesting blurb:

CBP administered polygraph examinations to individuals who have admitted to such things as using illegal drugs within the last 2 years or committing serious crimes. Either of those actions would prevent someone from being eligible for employment as a CBP law enforcement officer.

Does that mean that drug use more than two years ago is not an automatic DQ? That in fact there really is no “zero tolerance” drug use policy?

You can read the whole report if you are so inclined, it is not that long.

Good question . . . It could be that mitigating factors for use beyond two years are allowed. It could also be that the POLICY allows drug use beyond two years but GUIDLINES disallow ANY use . . .