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.  

Torben Bjørn Hansen\FlickrTorben Bjørn Hansen\Flickr"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 The WSJ, 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." 

Kennedy said 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 Journal reports. 

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

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

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    This guy might be completely earnest, but there's no way in hell I'd hire him. The risks that's he's just a mole, looking for any tiny thing that could land everyone in jail, are way too high.

  • ||

    Too much work and intrigue for the DEA. It's much simpler to just raid some dispensaries who are complying with state law and don't expect it. Remember, DEA also stands for Desire Easier Arrests.

  • ||

    Is it really any different than hiring former IRS or SEC people? That's pretty common.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    I don't know that his application technique is, though.

    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.

    And if he didn't hire you Mr. Moen? What then? Using his business card sounds like intimidation and misuse of position.

  • CatoTheElder||

    Why would anybody trust a narc not to be a narc?

    Even if one were so gullible, why would anybody want to hire a certifiable asshole?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    You'd be crazy to trust that scumbag.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "People from outside this industry don't quite understand how complicated it is," Kennedy said.

    If you can't trust the President, whom can you trust?

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Does there even have to be any kind of investigation going on when they seize assets?

  • Mark22||

    Seems to me he was part of the illegal drug industry before, he just changed employers.

  • ||

    Pot-smoking Mountie stun-gunned, charged with assaulting another officer


    An RCMP spokeswoman said the Mounties were concerned about Francis’s well-being when they found him Friday on a street in downtown Fredericton.

    Morehouse said the RCMP called Fredericton police for help because the city is not within RCMP jurisdiction.

    She said Francis was hit with a stun gun at one point, but she could not offer further details, saying the matter is before the courts.

    Francis attracted national attention last month when he spoke out against the RCMP’s policy that says its officers cannot smoke medicinal marijuana while in uniform.


    So the Mountie managed to piss off his bosses, then he's "found on a street downtown", local police called, "was hit with a stun gun at one point" but no more info is available because "the matter is before the courts".

    The whole thing stinks to high heaven.

  • houston honda dealers||

    DEA agent leaves job to join legal marijuana private equity firm. He leaved the job, because he wanted to involved in this activities.

  • obd2||

    any different than hiring former IRS or SEC people? That's pretty common.

  • RishJoMo||

    Sounds like some serious business to me dude.

  • MSimon||

    There were 13 comments before this one.

  • sidcon||

    so he wants to bring honesty and professionalism to the legal marijuana industry.No doubt the same professionalism and integrity all of law enforcement is suspected of.

  • OneOut||

    Does DEA offer a reward program with anonymity like the IRS does?

  • LIFE.time.opertunity||


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties