The Former DEA Agent Turned Cannabis Investor


Meet Patrick Moen, the one-time drug warrior who now invests in legalized pot. In February, Reason TV's Paul Detrick spoke with Moen, former supervisory special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), who now works as compliance director and senior counsel at Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that invests in cannabis.

Q: What did [your coworkers at the DEA] have to say when you packed up your desk with all of your stuff in a brown box and you were walking out the door?

A: I had a lot of guys express the belief that I was a trendsetter or a pioneer, which was a little surprising at the time. I got a lot of support. I got a few guys asking me for jobs.

Q: Since joining Privateer Holdings, your presence has sparked a media frenzy. More journalists are fascinated with this move that you made. Why do you think that people are so interested?

A: We've all heard the term the blue line or the blue wall. A lot of law enforcement are either reluctant or prohibited to speak to the press. A lot of the fascination stems from the ability to maybe get a bit of an inside look at some of these organizations that previously were pretty unknown to the public. We all know that the end of prohibition is coming. I think everyone recognizes that. Taking that first step is often the most difficult one. It just so happened I was the one to take it.

Q: Have you consumed marijuana yourself?

A: I have, but it's been 20 years.

Q: The U.S. has been fighting the drug war for over 40 years now. Do you think the war on drugs will come to an end at some point?

A: I don't know. That's a really complex question obviously. I think that the war on marijuana will come to an end fairly soon. The inevitability has reached everyone at this point.

Q: Why not harder drugs then?

A: Well, my own personal point of view is that drugs like methamphetamine and heroin have legitimate, observable, harmful effects to the user and people around the user. You definitely cannot say the same about cannabis.

Q: The U.S. Justice Department's 2013 National Drug Threat Assessment said that the availability was increasing for heroin. It was also increasing for methamphetamine. These numbers fluctuate from year to year to year, but will we really be able to live in a world where we can stop people from doing this drug?

A: No. Never. I mean, the mission at DEA was really to keep it under control. Right? I don't think anyone was under the illusion that we were going to stop it, that we're going to win the war on drugs. They were trying to minimize the associated harms.

When it comes down to it, we're sticking our thumbs in a dike. There's only so much we can do. We tried to attack choke points, tried to limit supply. There's little we can do about demand. As long as demand continues to exist there will always be supply.

Q: But there will also always be DEA agents, like your former self, banging their heads against the wall.

A: That's true. I guess it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. Is the job that the DEA [agents] are doing producing a measurable benefit? There are some cases of mine in particular that I'm very proud of that I can look back at and say I had a measurable effect on this community for some period of time before it bounced back. Part of DEA's role is to keep things under control to a degree. Long term, are we going to succeed? Who knows?