Former DEA Agent Quits Job, Joins the Marijuana Industry

Patrick Moen, a 36-year-old from Portland, Oregon, recently made
a dramatic career shift. Tired of leading a team of Portland-based
DEA agents in arresting drug traffickers, he has joined a firm in
Seattle, Washington that invests in budding marijuana businesses.

“The potential social and financial returns are
enormous,” Mr. Moen, who is becoming managing director of
compliance and senior counsel of Privateer Holdings
Inc., told The
Wall Street Journal. “The attitudes toward cannabis
are shifting rapidly.”

According to
, Moen’s shift was inspired by an
interest in the legal marijuana industry. Perhaps not surprisingly,
his job interview was a little weird:

Mr. Moen…said he was pondering career moves when one day on
the ride to work, he heard Mr. Kennedy [Chief Executive of
Pirvateer] interviewed on the radio. The legal marijuana
business had interested him, and he reached out to Mr. Kennedy
online. They set a meeting at a Portland-area coffee shop. Mr.
Kennedy says he was nervous; all he knew of Mr. Moen was that he
was affiliated with the Justice Department.

When he sat down and Mr. Moen slid him a business card, “I
started to sweat a bit,” Mr. Kennedy says. An envelope followed. “I
thought, ‘This is bad.'”

“This is my resume,” Mr. Moen said.

When he announced his career change, it was Mr. Moen’s time to
be nervous. “I was concerned about blowback from colleagues and
from friends and family,” he says. “On the surface, it seems like a
pretty abrupt about-face.” 

that he hired Moen in order to help his business navigate
compliance issues in the legally murky field. So far the firm has
not had difficulty raising capital from investors (who range from
“New York financiers to West Coast liberals [to] Texas ranchers
with libertarian leanings”), but has struggled with finding
investments that won’t run afoul of federal law.

If Privateer were to do business with growers, processors, or
distributors in the U.S., it could risk a federal investigation and
seized assets. So the company primarily invests in
marijuana-related industries such as, a website that allows
users to rate and review marijuana strains and dispensaries and a
company in Washington that builds business parks leased to growers.
It also does business with growers and distributors in Canada,
where a federal licensing system for medical marijuana makes for a
less risky environment.  

“People from outside this industry don’t quite understand how
complicated it is,” Kennedy said.

Since Moen announced the decision to his friends and family,
most of the reactions have been supportive. Moen told them he
“thought he could have more impact helping to bring professionalism
and best practices to the marijuana business,” the Wall Street

Moen joins a growing list of former police officers who have
left the agency to do some decidedly anti-anti-drug work. In the
early 90’s, veteran undercover officer Michael Levine published a

on the “incompetent” DEA’s tendency to excaerbate societal
drug problems. In 2002, five veteran police officers
Enforcement Against Prohibition
, a non-profit composed of
current and former law enforcement officials who oppose

When asked by the Wall Street Journal for
 on Moen’s decision a DEA
spokesperson declined to comment.

from Hit & Run

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