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Marijuana use at center of Tesla CEO's security clearance review

More states, including Pennsylvania, have passed laws allowing medical and/or recreational marijuana use in recent years. Even so, its use remains illegal at the federal level. Using marijuana, even in a state where it is legal, could require a security clearance review, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently discovered.

During his participation in a podcast, Musk smoked marijuana. Since this drug remains illegal at the federal level, he was required to update his security clearance application for review by the Department of Defense. The businessman received a secret-level security clearance in connection with Space Exploration Technologies Corp. The company, whose daily operations fall to someone else, launches spy satellites for the U.S. military.

Simply using marijuana in the past may not keep someone from obtaining a clearance. Pervasive use or lying about its use could easily result in a denial or revocation, however. Even if the usage does not raise security concerns or was minor, Musk and others in his position could still lose the ability to do their jobs since access to sensitive and classified information could be barred during the review. Although this makes sense, it could jeopardize an individual's employment. It probably would not hurt Musk nearly as much as a typical Pennsylvania resident, however.

Any Pennsylvania resident applying for a security clearance or facing review for potentially criminal activity would benefit from obtaining information regarding his or her rights. The information provided and its presentation could make the difference between obtaining or retaining a clearance. Instead of letting the process go unchecked, an individual should consider taking a proactive role in the review by providing as much information up front as possible and by being forthcoming with information and in answering questions.

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