Want to join Military: Job requires TS clearance. Prior drug use

Hi SCJ community,

I’m 22 and seriously considering joining the military. The jobs I’m interested in require a TS clearance once I’m in. Despite the potential for the Sf-86 test, the military application also is asking if I have done any of the things I am about to mention below.

My predicament: I used marijuana frequently in high school and then occasionally in my first year of college, all in all from 16-19 years old. When I was in high school (16-17 y/o,) I made the mistake of selling some of my MJ to friends for 2-3 months. After, I felt that I was doing something wrong and stopped. I was never criminally charged, nor do I have any kind of record. A total of 10 people in my hometown do know what was going on, however. I also tried LSD when I was 17 but have never touched it since. In my first semester of college, at 19 years old, I was in a hotel room on a school trip where kids drank while underage, and our dean of students found out. Nothing was put in my transcript and no disciplinary action was brought upon me but the other kids were not so lucky. My parents had a nasty divorce and my dumb, immature self did stupid things to cope. Now, that I’m about to turn 23, I feel really stupid and ashamed of my past.

Since graduating from high school, I have been a model citizen. No traffic record, four consistent years of employment with high potential for recommendations, high recommendations from college professors, and friends who can attest to being a different person. My past motivated me to be a better person but my past is my past. I want to serve my country but as I said, my past is my past.

My main question here is: Considering everything I have mentioned, should I even consider joining the military being that I made these mistakes when I was young? I do not smoke MJ now, nor do I regularly drink alcohol, or associate myself with people who use substances regularly.

Magic 8 ball says your chances are good. Being young and dumb helps to mitigate your concerns as well as putting years in-between you and your dumbness.

I would not hesitate to apply.

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Thanks for responding! I really do want to join. My concern is if I mention this on my initial application i may be denied. If you have any knowledge: If I do mention all that happened could I be criminally prosecuted? I’m considering speaking to an attorney too.

When you join the military, you’ll select a specialty. Whether or not you are put in for a clearance right away depends entirely on that specialty. Some require TS.

Your background doesnt sound all that unusual and as long as you have stayed away from all that stuff for at least a year, you should be OK. DO NOT let the recruiter tell you to lie on the forms or offer to fill them out for you or any of that stuff…heard a lot of horror stories about that.

Later on, you may get an assignment that requires a higher clearance. But that decision is not up to you (unless you manage to convince the assignments people that you need to go to such-and-such a place).

Good luck, be honest, and don’t use drugs, M’kay? Drugs are bad, m’kay?


Agreed, drugs suck. Never again, they only bring problems. My only option now is to be forthcoming with everything. Thank you very much for taking the time to reply.

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Don’t know for sure, adjudicative guidelines state ‘may’ be disqualifying. As with almost everything else in this profession, seems like the answer is, ‘it depends.’

Need an adjudicator to weigh in.


Alcohol, not a problem based on what you wrote. Those experimenting with MJ, infrequent use should never submit for clearance unless there is 12 months since last use. If you were a frequent or regular user (every or most weekends; not unusual for college) …I would wait 18 to 24 months with no use before submitting. A “heavy” user, daily, or every weekend for several years…may need wait 36 months. The LSD raises the bar. It is viewed differently and I know many police agencies have a zero ever use policy. Why? Because attorneys can request your testimony be thrown out as unreliable. In the cleared world I do not think that is the case as there are significant case histories with very heavy use and selling of MJ, and heavier drugs. On the plus side you have your age. Smoking and using under age 24 is treated as stupid kid stuff normally. Also in your favor, a possible mitigation is the awful divorce. Some may say this is an excuse, but having been through one and I misused someone’s prescription Prozac…I understand. It is a significant event, not likely to repeat itself and you got yourself right. Time is your friend. Honesty will also be your friend. I commend your choice on military having 20 years active myself and many years afterwards supporting them. If it has been more than 3 years (sounds like yes), you removed people from your life who were catalysts to using…even though you may have been that person…and you no longer hang out where drug use was rampant…I believe you will clear. Be honest and open, do not shade the amount nor let the Polygraph person (if you go that far) categorize your use in anything that isn’t specifically your words. I’ve seen folks accept that the person said “not everyday, you worked hard during the week, but on weekends you would get together and smoke…” suddenly becomes 104 uses per year (52 weekends, two days…). Actual use may have been 2 weekends a month. But you get the picture. I think you will clear if all other aspects of your life are good to go, finances, etc.

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Aha I missed that part about selling. Hopefully the elapsed time since those incidents and your age at the time will be strong mitigating factors.


I had a fellow military family member go to jail for a simple conversation regarding who used and sold dope in the local area in high school. Since it was a new person in the unit who just arrived, he obviously did not know anyone. So he asked my family member who grew up in that town outside a military base. He himself was not a user. But the aiding, abetting, intent to distribute, conspiracy…they stacked it up and he lost his military career and served time in local jail as the conversation took place in a pizza hut. He learned his lesson. got a college degree and lived a good life for a few decades and he laughs about it. Time is the mitigation and scope and scale is the other side of that.

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Hi everyone,

So thank you very much taking the time respond. It is really helping me with my decision process. So I spoke with the recruiter and he said that if I mark off that I did LSD, that one time when I was 16-17, and that I sold, without ever being criminally tried/charged/found out, that I would be disqualified from joining the military. I mentioned that I have heard of stories where people get actually charged with crimes and are convicted, who can get a moral waiver to go in. Should I try to find another recruiter who can help me? I really do not want to lie on any paperwork. Especially if it means a security polygraph situation is necessary in the future.

You can always try. Recruiters are under a lot of pressure to meet their quotas (“make mission” as some services call it) so they may be reluctant to spend time working on a potential recruit that might be rejected.

A lot of people do get waivers. Might be worth a try.

I just went to goarmy.com and could not find anything that would prevent you from enlisting. Maybe try contacting a recruiter through that web site (if you are considering the Army). I found a reference to “drug offenses” but I assume that means a person was at least charged with a drug related crime.

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Don’t lie or allow them to talk you into being untruthful. Seen many licked out for fraudulent enlistment for that very thing. Army may be less selective than Air Force, particularly combat MOS.