Drug Agent Joins Budding Industry

WASHINGTON: Government officials regularly leverage their public-sector experience into more lucrative jobs in high finance. One former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration supervisor is giving that track a new twist.

Patrick Moen, a longtime DEA agent, has left a post leading a federal team in Portland, Ore., that combats heroin and methamphetamine trafficking to join a private-equity firm that invests solely in businesses tied to the budding legal marijuana industry.

“The potential social and financial returns are enormous,” says Mr. Moen, who is becoming managing director of compliance and senior counsel of Privateer Holdings Inc. “The attitudes toward cannabis are shifting rapidly.”

A DEA spokesman declined to comment.

Seattle-based Privateer was founded in 2010 on the idea that there are vast sums to be made in bringing the black-market marijuana business into the open.

Privateer’s investments include Leafly.com, a website that allows users to rate and review strains of marijuana and dispensaries, as well as a company in Washington state that builds and owns business parks leased to growers and processors.

The firm doesn’t directly invest in growers, processors or distributors in the U.S., where it could run afoul of federal law, but has in Canada, where there is a federal licensing system for medicinal suppliers.

It has raised $7 million, and is hoping to raise $25 million more next year, says Chief Executive Brendan Kennedy. Investors committed minimums of $250,000 to the firm’s first fundraising effort and the bar will be $1 million for the coming round, Mr. Kennedy says. He characterizes Privateer’s investors as wealthy individuals who range from New York financiers to West Coast liberals and Texas ranchers with libertarian leanings. The firm has no institutional investors, such as pension funds, and parents of teenagers tend to be tough sells, he says.

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