DEA agent leaves job for marijuana investment firm

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland DEA agent has left his position to join a Seattle firm that invests in the marijuana industry, joining a small but emerging industry that projects to keep growing with legal pot in Colorado and Washington state.

Ten-year DEA veteran Patrick Moen made the jump to Privateer Holdings last month, The Oregonian reported.

The 36-year-old lawyer spent his career busting up trafficking rings for drugs like meth and ecstasy. And he acknowledges that some of his former DEA colleagues are less than enthusiastic about his career choice.

But Moen said the opportunity was too good to pass on.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Moen, who is in the process of relocating from Portland to Seattle. “It’s not one I took lightly. I talked with friends, family and coworkers. I sought out opinions. When it comes down to it, this is an incredible opportunity for me professionally and personally.”

He will assist the firm with state and federal compliance issues.

Moen also says the medical marijuana system in Oregon needs a “complete overhaul” to prevent abuse.

Moen is the second DEA agent with Oregon ties to make the move to the marijuana industry. Paul Schmidt, who until 2010 served as the highest-ranking DEA agent in Oregon, now works as a medical marijuana business consultant.

Schmidt, 54, acknowledged that some former colleagues consider advising the medical marijuana industry a move to the “dark side.”

“A lot of people say, `How could you be so against it Monday and then on Tuesday you are all for it?” said Schmidt, who worked in law enforcement for more than three decades and lives in Canby.

Schmidt has long been interested in the drug’s botanical background and its medicinal potential, he said. And though as a federal drug agent, he testified in marijuana cases in Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Wyoming, he said he viewed the drug as less harmful than heroin, meth and cocaine.

“It was the least of the evils,” he said.

Many officers, particularly younger ones, agree with him, he said.

“If you go to the newer law enforcement, somewhere 45 years and younger, and you talk to them about cannabis, they are just like, `Man, why isn’t it legal? I have got other things to do.”’

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