Will recreational marijuana use preclude a person from obtaining Level III (Top Secret) security clearance in Canada?

The Canadian CSE (Communications Security Establishment) website says: "The use of illegal or recreational drugs is a criminal offense. Drug use is a significant factor that is subject to evaluation when considering the reliability and suitability of the candidate during the security screening process." However, this does not make it clear whether use of marijuana alone is a deal-breaker.

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    The use of illegal or recreational drugs is a criminal offense. I'm not sure how much clearer that gets. Yes I would most certainly believe that Marijuana would preclude you from obtaining a Level III security clearance. – Bryan Harrington Jul 8 '15 at 22:12
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    @BryanHarrington I agree, certainly recreational marijuana use is a criminal offense. However, "Drug use is a significant factor that is subject to evaluation..." does not necessarily mean that any drug use at all automatically disqualifies a person. – Anonymous Jul 8 '15 at 22:25
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    No it does not make it clear if it is a deal breaker. But I think you can safely assume it will be a deal breaker. Security clearance is very sensitive drug use. – paparazzo Jul 8 '15 at 22:29
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    @Anonymous "The use of illegal or recreational drugs is a criminal offense...". The word "Recreational drugs" very much implies Marijuana without actually saying it. "Drug use is a significant factor that is subject to evaluation when considering the reliability and suitability of the candidate during the security screening process". This leaves the door open for a drug testing policy as well as some degree of wiggle room on prescription drugs. In no world are you going to get a Level 3 security clearance without drug testing and a tolerance for Marijuana. – Bryan Harrington Jul 8 '15 at 22:43
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    @BryanHarrington I believe that you fess up and it was in the past ie more than 12-18 months ago and you not using now they will not automatically bar you. And all places that do Vetting will have info on what is involved if your applying for (DV /TS) you should have this info already – Pepone Jul 8 '15 at 22:50

Given the reciprocity and working relationship between the U.S. and Canada for intelligence and military matters, the policies are very much mirrored. The short answer is yes, recreational use of any drug ordinarily considered a controlled substance will preclude you from receiving a TS security clearance unless the use occurred many years ago and you can honestly say it was a mistake of immaturity at the time. More so than even a questionable credit and financial history, recent or current use of a recreational drug will preclude you from obtaining a clearance.

The logic is simple. If you can't be clean, professional and mature, then why should you be trusted with sensitive information that may be a matter of national security? If you're wanting a TS clearance, then you have to show you have your financial and lifestyle affairs in order because if you're granted a clearance, you're going to be expected to submit to routine drug testing and polygraphing as well as financial transparency (submission of your annual tax returns, bank statements and credit card statements). Those are regular items among employees and contractors working in a TS capacity for the government's interest.


From my experience with the U.S. DoD clearance process, using marijuana in the past is not a automatic failure for clearance purposes. Similar to minor financial troubles or small legal infractions, not disclosing these things will have more of an impact on your chances of getting a clearance than the actual offense itself.

Think of it this way: a big part of having a security clearance is safeguarding non-public information AND properly reporting when such information may have been compromised by your (or another's) actions. If you're going to cover up something like using weed, you're also fairly likely cover for Joe forgetting to properly secure the classified safe last night.


The thinking around this is currently in flux. Funny reason: it's really hard to find great cyber talent if you are too stringent about pot use. See http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-fbi-cant-find-hackers-that-dont-smoke-pot

According to that article it's fine for the FBI if it's more than three years ago. But this will vary by agency and country. I don't think there is any harm in directly checking with the agency involved, especially if it involves an event that's already on the record.


The biggest deal breaker for Security Clearances is lieing - if you used it and you lie about and they find out you won't get it (and they usually do, they do some crazy investigations for some of those clearances I don't know about yours specifically but they go all the way back to childhood teachers, texts, e-mails, friends, people you met in college, etc...). The people I know with clearances that had past drug uses were upfront about it.

It's a factor in the sense that it's a factor. Is your usage an issue? Has it caused issues? What did you do to get it? etc... Another problem with drugs is it breaks you out of the function formed mindset society and the media and education has formed you to be in so they want to know if you actually care about national security and how much.

  • @Joe Just in the sense that drugs alter peoples perception, and as we find out the older we get - perception is everything. So it's important for them to find out if the way you view the world is completely differently to them because your idea of 'security' could be a whole different ball park than theirs - and this isn't just immediately true from drug users as people have found but it's def. a concern, it gives them more insight into what they should ask the person and why more then it just tells them to discount that person from employment – user37925 Jul 9 '15 at 18:43

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