This Former DEA Agent Is Going to Work in the Marijuana Business

sarra22/Shutterstock.com

Patrick Moen is a 36-year-old former supervisor at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, where, until recently, he led a team based in Portland that fought methamphetamine and heroin traffickers.  

Now, he is embarking on a career change. A rather dramatic one. The Wall Street Journal reports that Moen has become the in-house lawyer at Privateer Holdings Inc., "a private-equity firm that invests solely in businesses tied to the budding legal marijuana industry."

In other words, the revolving door between business and government just made an unexpected, and very druggy, turn. 

Wonkblog's Lydia DePillis thinks this has the makings of a Ben Affleck movie, presumably because Moen's beard has "Argo" written all over it. Me, I think this has more of a Showtime original series vibe. But beyond that, it's a telling sign of how quickly marijuana entrepreneurs have gone corporate, both to make a profit and, you know, avoid federal prosecution.

Founded by a pair of Yale MBA's, Privateer has $7 million in funding so far, and is one of at least two private equity firms aiming to civilize the industry a bit and mainstream its business practices. Rather than invest in U.S. growers or dispensaries, which operate in a legal gray area, it purchases up pot-consultants, insurers, and websites that operate around the edges of the business. One example: Leafly.com, a site where users can review cannabis strains and dispensaries. But, as USA Today has reported, "even the strategy of profiting from marijuana without touching it could run afoul of money-laundering laws, if those services are bought with drug proceeds." 

So what's a savvy investment firm in legally hazy territory to do? Act like a bank, and hire a lawyer with government experience knows how to avoid breaking the law, or can at least make a polished case to their former colleagues arguing that you haven't.

If you think about the sheer number of career prosecutors who go on to become defense lawyers, it doesn't seem beyond the realm of possibility that, as the cannabis business grows, other narcs might one day follow Moen's lead. And if that happens, I have to wonder if it will start to subtly change the way regulators regard marijuana, since hiring former officials is one way industries tend to accrue credibility, both in the eyes of government lawyers and politicians. 

"The potential social and financial returns are enormous," Moen told the Journal of his new business. "The attitudes toward cannabis are shifting rapidly."

Indeed they are. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.