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


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:, 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.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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