A former supervisor for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is making a rather drastic career change by supporting the legal marijuana industry. Patrick Moen spent years fighting methamphetamine and heroin traffickers in Portland, OR, but has now 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.” Portland is less than a 30 minute drive away from the Washington border, where marijuana is now legal for recreational use by anyone over the age of 21.
Privateer has already raised $7 million and is looking to raise another $25 million in 2014. Their investments include Leafly.com, a Yelp-style website that lets users rate and review dispensaries and strains of marijuana, as well as a Washington state company that builds and owns business parks leased to growers and processors. “The potential social and financial returns are enormous,” said Moen. “The attitudes towards cannabis are shifting rapidly.”
After ten years of working with the DEA, Moen’s responsibilities with Privateer will also ironically include helping the company steer clear of legal trouble. “There are so many problems with the industry,” said Chief Executive Brendan Kennedy, a former technology executive who also worked in venture capital. “The sector is fragmented, it is difficult doing business with banks and the industry is littered with former outlaws. People from outside this industry don’t quite understand how complicated it is.”
Naturally, Moen said he was concerned about “blowback from colleagues and from friends and family,” but said he has received overwhelming support for his career change. The DEA declined to comment on Moen.