Ask a Cop?: Becoming a cop with a past drug history..


—–Original Message—–
From: Mike
Sent: Wednesday, January 05, 2011 11:31 PM
Subject: Becoming a cop with a past drug history

I live in California and i understand that most agencies require a polygraph test pre-hire. My question is i am 22 and have used marijuana a few months at a time for the past 2 yrs, my estimate is maybe a total of 6 months altogether in 2 years, am i automatically disqualified. Because i wanted to start the academy which doesn’t begin for 8 months and the course is 10 months long so i will of be cleaned for 18 months is there any way i can get hired or am i wasting my time. any information will be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Here are some answers for you:

Some agencies may not consider hiring someone with any type of drug use in the past several years while others are more lenient for occasional marijuana use (which is almost legal now anyway). It all depends on the agency. But one thing they will all have in common is wanting honesty. If the polygraph results show any type of deception you probably wouldn’t be considered for the job. Many of my officer friends had smoked marijuana when they were younger and were honest during their polygraph so the prior marijuana use didn’t affect them becoming police officers. Most departments understand that young people experiment with some drugs and consider it "life experience". As long as a reasonable amount of time has passed since your last use and you are honest, your chances of becoming a cop should not be hampered.

I remember one of the recruits in my police academy stated had been honest about using several types of drugs in his youth, and even admitted selling some drugs when younger. The department considered it "life experience" and because he was so honest they hired him anyway. While prior use of meth, cocaine, or other drugs / sales that are felonies are an automatic denial for most agencies, others may appreciate the honesty and give someone a chance as long as time has passed since the last time someone used. There is no "set standard" for prior drug use, it all depends on the department.

If all it was, was an occasional marijuana use, and you can honestly tell the agency you are applying at that you haven’t smoked marijuana in the last year or two, I’m sure your odds would be the same as everyone else applying for the job. Good Luck!


Even cocaine is not a disqualifier. However, try to explain why you are smoking marijuana? Medical, need etc. I would quit if you can, be honest about your past. Who can trust a lying cop?


I would highly suggest that if you plan on trying to become a cop you really rethink your life and what you do day to day. The issue is not the use of drugs or any possible disqualifier, it’s the fact that if you are using or doing anything that is even the slightest bit illegal and the next candidate is not then you will be passed over for the better more secure applicant.



  1. Hey guys I was wondering what happened to your podcast? I am on episode 11 and noticed you have not done any past this past Oct. I love the show and hope you have not stopped the podcast. Thank you and thanks for your service. Jay from Port St Lucie Florida.

  2. Hey guys, love the podcast. My question is if you have a sealed record from something in your youth, would that prevent you from applying and becoming a cop? Something happened when I was 17 and I am 34 now and work for the federal govt and my dream is still to become a cop. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,

  3. I smoked in the past like a year ago. but i have never done any other drugs and i can tell you on one hand how many times i have smoked and i have quit do you think i could be dq’d

  4. I am so discorage right now because of my search to be a police officer. Integrity is everything to me but I see that telling the truth about me smoking weed is a big no to police departments. I am already in corrections but it doesn’t seem to matter. Cops have told me you need to lie to get in but why should I have to lie about something that is old. These departs press honesty, honesty, honesty and then when I tell the truth they all say the same thing your credentials are amazing but the panel will not like this. 🙁 will I ever be a cop…

  5. Hello, I am interested in law enforcement but had a couple questions. When I was 19 I smoked pot and tried acid once. I’ve been clean for 3 years now and just graduated with my associates in Law Enforcement. Do I have any chance of getting on a department?

  6. So I applied for the police and passed the test and background check, my questions is I misread the one of the application saying “Have you ever used, sold, or distrubuted drugs” and I read over the used part and I put No.. but Im going to be honest on my polygraph if Im asked.. will I be disqualifed?

  7. Well its better to be honest than lie. Lying as a police officer is the best way to get fired.
    I will not lie when I tell you that we have not been able to hire many that lied about drug use or tried to cover it up.
    What you did in your past will haunt you forever for some jobs, and law enforcement is one of them

  8. Hard to say, I would talk to a recruiter and see – Also every department is different in what they ask for, I know the one thing all ask for is no drug use, or a long time since last using. As in years and years.

  9. Im 22 years old . I want to become a cop but what stops me is that I’ve used drugs probably like 3 months ago. I popped an E pill and that was the last time i ever did a drug . I’ve smoked weed but a long time ago this year. Those are the only drugs Ive done in my whole life . And my question here is should I wait a bit longer before applying? Maybe I’ll be “forgiven” that it was long ago or should i just take the risk of not getting hired , which would suck alot . I really want to get started in my career already but my stupid past decisions are holding me back. what should i do ? pls answer my questions!!

  10. I would wait and be clean for up to a year. There are too many good candidates for you to get denied – and when that happens its hard to continue with other departments.

  11. While I am not sure on the exact hiring rules they have when you fail testing with a department it is normally not likely they will hire you later.

  12. I am interested in becoming a police officer. I am on methadone but did not get on it for heroine addiction. I had internal hemmoraging and got on it then. I have started to slowly decrease my dose and come off of it. Can I become a police officer while I’m still on it? I don’t use any drugs.

  13. I took the nypd test when i was 18. I was just called on my backround application i addmitted to trying pot. Passed all test was waiting to go into this nov class because i told them i tried pot 3 yrs prior iam waiting for appeal decision

  14. Hello all, I just been DQ for stating on my application that I smoked 150-200 times back between 1994-1998. This was for Miami dade metro police. I m annoyed that I was honest and not only that but it was long ago. My military (USMC) did not even help for the BI to overlook this. Anyhow I’m not going to let this stop my goal. I am going to self sponsored myself through the academy and see where this road would lead me.

    Any feedback will be great! Semper Fi!


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