DEA Agent Switches Sides, Joins The Marijuana Industry

DEA Agent Switches Sides, Joins The Marijuana Industry

Image via Susan Montgomery/Shutterstock

Image via Susan Montgomery/Shutterstock

Patrick Moen has been working for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for a decade, but now he's switching sides in the war on drugs.

For the last 10 years, the 36-year-old lawyer has been working for the government to bust Oregon drug rings peddling substances like meth and ecstasy. His job description included listening to wiretaps and tracking drug money.

Now he's trading that all in for a greener job working with Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based firm that invests in the marijuana industry, according to The Oregonian. As of last month, the DEA veteran is relocating from Portland to Seattle to back marijuana-related enterprises in the still-controversial industry.

It wasn't an easy decision,” Moen told The Oregonian. “It's not one I took lightly. I talked with friends, family and coworkers. I sought out opinions. When it comes down to it, this is an incredible opportunity for me professionally and personally.”

No one's more shocked by Moen's decision than his colleagues. John Deits, who formerly oversaw federal drug prosecutions in Oregon, said, “I think it was surprising to me that Pat would want to do what he is doing. I think it was surprising to a lot of people within his own agency.”

Deits added that Moen will certainly have the knowledge necessary for his new position. “[DEA agents] are the ones that know a lot about the laws and a lot about marijuana,” he said.

Following In The Footsteps Of Another DEA Agent

Although marijuana is still illegal under federal law, it's legal for recreational use in Washington and Colorado and for medical use in 20 states and Washington, D.C. One estimate values the legal marijuana industry at $1.44 billion.

The industry is growing fast, and Moen isn't the first DEA agent looking to cash in on it.

Paul Schmidt served as the highest-ranking DEA agent in Oregon until his departure in 2010 and now works as a medical marijuana business consultant. Schmidt, who worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years, understands it's a bold move. He recalls, “A lot of people say, ‘How could you be so against it Monday and then on Tuesday you are all for it?'”

He says the sides aren't so black and white. Even during his time as a federal drug agent, he viewed marijuana as less harmful than other substances like meth, heroin and cocaine. “It was the least of the evils,” he said.

Schmidt says this outlook is increasingly common among agents. “If you go to the newer law enforcement – somewhere 45 years and younger – and you talk to them about cannabis, they are just like, ‘Man, why isn't it legal? I have got other things to do.'”

A Smart Move For The Marijuana Industry

American corporations frequently set their sights on former government regulators, regardless of the industry. “It's a revolving-door strategy,” explained Pete Tashman, an assistant professor of management at Portland State University's School of Business Administration. He told The Oregonian that former government officials offer an insider's view to laws and regulations.

In the marijuana industry, former government officials can help young companies navigate the changing laws and even help shape new laws. “Folks that have experience on the legal end of it will help their employers lobby for the right kinds of policies that might emerge in the future,” Tashman said.

Katherine Pilnick


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