stupid mistake and clearance

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients

stupid mistake and clearance

Post by pleasehelp »

So I grew up pretty goody two shoes type kid. I was very very terrified of weed during high school, even though my friends insisted it was fine. My senior year, I went to a party and I ended up partaking (my crush noticed me for once and he talked me into it... not my brightest moment) and then I took a hit off of a few blunts throughout the rest of my senior year (I don’t know how many times but less than like 6 instances including that one time at the party). I then went off to college, didn’t partake for a while, I’ve never bought weed and idk how to even go about that. Then I came home because of corona, and smoked about probably 5 times over quarantine with my “friends”. I ended up cutting off those friends (I realized they were dead beat and that some people don’t mature from high school and that they encouraged bad habits and weren’t people that I could grow with), but I still continued to be stupid and have probably smoked an additional 10 times since at parties/gatherings (so like approximately 21 times over almost 3 years, so like once every two months, and I have no tolerance or dependence whatsoever, I just stupidly would take a hit in social settings that I don’t partake in anymore). My last use was somewhat recent though, in April, but I am determined to no longer use weed ever, EVER again. I am even giving up alcohol as a means of showing I don’t need any sort of substances, even if it’s legal. This internship is my dream, and I know I should have given it up sooner, but is there still a chance for me to get a security clearance? I imagine I’ll need a secret clearance, and it seems it takes a bit of time before they get to it so I’m hoping that by the time they start it’ll have been some months so I can show how serious I am about not using it anymore. I am even willing to sign a letter of intent or take a course. I’m planning on being 100% truthful on my SF-86 and basically I want to know, is it still possible for me to get the clearance? Is there anything I can do to help increase my chances? Also I heard that some SFs give you the opportunity to discuss this prior with someone off record to get advice, is that true? Also if I am honest and then don’t end up getting the clearance, do I have to pay smart back? I genuinely regret ever smoking so bad, and I am willing to do whatever to be able to have this amazing opportunity and make up for my past. I had a very clean record, no arrests, not even a speeding warning or ticket, I have good credit, and am otherwise a model citizen and student, any chance SMART will be forgiving?

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Re: stupid mistake and clearance

Post by Sherm1111 »

Do you happen to be in the Discord? We just had this conversation yesterday. From what I understand as long as you are truthful and it's not hardcore drugs, so basically just weed, you might be ok. They suggested reaching out to your SF/POC and see what their policies are and if this will hinder your future with them.

For anyone that does drugs or other things you might be worried about, everyone I have talked to has said to quit it now and reach out. You don't want to be kicked out for a mistake you made.

The moral of the story, quit now, reach out, and tell them the truth.

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Re: stupid mistake and clearance

Post by human234895 »

21 times over 3 years is a choice, not a mistake, and you need to make sure the language you use reflects that you have taken responsibility for that choice rather than passing it off as some sort of childish oopsie. You made a clear choice to become a semi-regular user of an illegal substance. It will work to your benefit if you demonstrate clearly that you are taking responsibility. Regardless, weed is a decently easy drug to adjudicate in some situations because mild experimentation is common in young people. Your problem will be recency and a duration of use that is far longer than your duration of abstinence. It is difficult to make a convincing promise that you won't use again when you used for 36 months and have been clean for 4 (assuming your processing begins in August), so do not use it again under any circumstances. I suggest discussing this matter with somebody at your SF to see if they can get security's input on the matter. They may be able to delay your processing to provide additional abstination time or offer an agreement that your clearance will be automatically and immediately revoked if you have any further involvement with illegal substances. I strongly suggest not going into the clearance process blind because that is very recent drug use. You can refer to the adjudicative desk reference for insight into how drug use is assessed: ... sion_4.pdf

Mitigating factors that should help you: young age (expected age range for drug experimentation), disconnection from people and situations tied to drug use, some period of abstinence.

As for alcohol, don't make a promise to abstain from it unless you are fully convinced you can keep it. It won't look good if as soon as you get cleared you start drinking again.

So to answer one of your questions more directly, yes you can sorta-kinda talk to somebody "off record" about this in the sense that you can talk to somebody outside the security office who wouldn't actually be involved in your clearance investigation. However, at that point you are bringing the matter into the social, personal, and professional spaces. You should handle it with care and understand that there are no guarantees about how they will react. In your case, I do think it's a good idea though.

SMART has no input on the matter. Your clearance is processed by the SF.

As for the things that will help, seriously, just do not use it again and tell the truth. Sounds like you shouldn't have any other problems in your processing so just be prepared to work through the drug section and make a good case for yourself.

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Re: stupid mistake and clearance

Post by malarious »

Your clearance investigation is looking for whether you are compromised or could be. Are you ashamed of it enough that someone could blackmail you on the information? Doesn't seem like it.

You absolutely need to stop though, the best time to stop was when you applied, the next best time would be now. Your investigation may ask you about it (I do not recall), in which case tell them. If they do not ask, but a field seems viable for it, tell them there. Attempting to hide something is 100% likely to bite you, because then they may retract the clearance if they feel you were hiding something.

I know of people with felonies that were granted clearances. I am one of them. They look for "mitigating factors" at that stage. I did not make habit of such mistakes, I paid my time/debt, and I carried on. I was direct, outlined all the information on it, and they agreed it was not a problem. My clearance took a very long time, 3 years, though they said 1 year of it was waiting on someone to sign it (literally, they said it had been on someone's desk for a year). Do not be discouraged or overly concerned, but you need to stop making it a habit. Weed is illegal for your employment, period, regardless of state laws.

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Re: stupid mistake and clearance

Post by toferkey »

The clearance procedure also varied widely depending on the organization you are with. If for example, you wanted a position with CIA, FBI, DEA, then you would definitely be denied. For DoD, as long as they don't start your clearance process within 12 months of your last drug usage then I would be pretty confident that you would pass the clearance based on this information. I am aware of people who have done A LOT more than what you have done and still got a clearance. However, your biggest issue that would be an AUTOMATIC disqualifier is the very recent usage (anything within 12 months of when they have you fill out the clearance paperwork is typically automatic disqualifier, of course you can appeal that though)


Re: stupid mistake and clearance

Post by scaryClearance »

I was a decently regular marijuana user my entire freshman year of college (I listed on my eqip that I sometimes smoked once a week for multiple months) and I was very scared like you when I realized this would be a big problem for me if I wanted this scholarship. Like others said, time since last use is a big factor, I had about a year without use when I filled out my clearance form. However, I was very adamant about separating myself from those I smoked with and how much I regretted the decision, I even asked my interviewer if there were steps I could take to further mitigate the mistake. Honestly, the interviewer straight up told me "everyone smokes a little weed sometimes", no lie. I never heard a thing from any security officer about my use, and 2 years later I just had my secret clearance granted with no hitches.

Granted, your situation is a little different from mine, but I wanted to hopefully offer a little peace of mind, because I know this gave me anxiety pretty much my entire college career afterwards. Good luck, I hope it works out.


Re: stupid mistake and clearance

Post by xristos317 »

The short answer is yes. The more complicated answer is that it's all situational. As others have mentioned, the clearance process is not about making sure you check (or don't check) X boxes, but that you are a trust worthy person who isn't susceptible to blackmail, etc.

My clearance process was lengthy and I was denied a temporary clearance, which resulted in my first SMART internship being cancelled. They never tell you why, but I imagine it was because of two main items: (1) previous drug use and (2) close foreign connections from countries of interest (e.g. China, Israel, Pakistan).

My advice is to be 100% honest, take ownership of your past, and if you intend to change your behavior then be upfront about that and honest. Not to be mean, but your post sounded fairly immature. You'll need to show good maturity around the whole situation to move past it (if that's what you intend) and possibly gain a security clearance. I would second other opinions that this wasn't a mistake, it was a choice, that you continued to make. I personally believe most drugs, especially marijuana, should be legal and more socially accepted, so no judgement from my end.

For reference, I consistently used a handful of drugs during my late teens and early 20s after abstaining from drugs during high school. Growing up in a drug popular location, those who left and were successful didn't use drugs for the most part. It wasn't until I went to college that I met smart, successful people who also used illegal drugs. It helped me that the SF-86 only requires information from the previous 7 years and I had been out of college longer than that, so I didn't have to include all of my history. Long story short, I reported using and purchasing a handful of different drugs on my SF-86 (marijuana, mushrooms, LSD, MDMA, etc.) and was eventually granted a clearance. It led to a long and uncomfortable interview with an agent, but I think they were more concerned with my foreign connections than my previous drug use.

Good luck!

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