Patrick Moen built an impressive reputation as a federal agent, busting big drug rings that peddled everything from meth to ecstasy on the streets of Oregon.
Moen’s decade-long career with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ended last month when he took a job with Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based private equity firm that invests in the fledgling, but lucrative marijuana industry.
Instead of listening to wiretaps and tracking illegal drug money, Moen now vets potential marijuana-related ventures as investment opportunities for the Yale-educated backers of enterprises like Leafly.com, a website offering reviews of marijuana strains.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Moen, who is in the process of relocating from Portland to Seattle. “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.”
The switch from law-and-order agent to marijuana industry booster raised eyebrows among Moen’s colleagues. Police generally take a dim view of marijuana; the DEA’s own “threat assessment” calls it “the most widely available and commonly abused illicit drug in the United States.” In Oregon, federal authorities have aggressively pursued large-scale marijuana producers and traffickers.
Moen is the second DEA agent with Oregon ties to make the move to the marijuana industry. Paul Schmidt, who until 2010 served as the highest-ranking DEA agent in Oregon, now works as a medical marijuana business consultant.
Hiring government regulators and enforcement officials is a common strategy among American corporations, said Pete Tashman, an assistant professor of management at Portland State University’s School of Business Administration.