It's probably no surprise that drug use can complicate getting a security clearance, but what if it's your spouse using the drugs?

QI do not do drugs, but my husband occasionally smokes marijuana. Since it is sometimes in my house, I am worried that this will reflect poorly on me even though I don't use it. I already have a secret clearance, but can my husband's behavior be held against me?

AObviously, no marijuana in the house would be best. But Jim O'Heron, who as an official with the Defense Security Service oversees security investigations of workers employed by private firms who need clearances for access to classified government documents, said this woman could attain a top-secret clearance even though her application might become complicated.

"In life nothing is certain," he said, "but normally [the circumstances described here] would not have a detrimental effect on her chances of obtaining a top-secret clearance."

O'Heron said the application for a top-secret clearance would "only ask about the applicant's use of illegal drugs and not associates. She has not used drugs and hopefully will not partake."

But O'Heron said because investigations for top-secret clearances are more intensive than those for the lesser confidential or secret clearances, it is possible that investigators would find out about the husband's marijuana use through interviews with neighbors or friends of the couple.

O'Heron said, "That would be reviewed. How serious is the information?" He said that investigators would then almost certainly ask the woman about her husband's use, whether she has smoked with him and whether the marijuana was stored in their house.

As for personal marijuana use, O'Heron said, Defense Security has no specific time demarcation line. But in general, he said, use in the past two years might be a problem in winning a clearance.

-- Kenneth Bredemeier

E-mail your workplace questions to Kenneth Bredemeier at bredemeier@washpost.com. Discuss workplace issues with him at 11 a.m. Wednesday at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.