Former DEA Agents Defecting to Work for the Medical Marijuana Biz

After 10 years with the DEA, former Oregon agent Patrick Moen accepted a job with Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based equity firm that invests in marijuana companies, The Oregonian reported. Because federal agents in Oregon aggressively go after large-scale pot growers and distributors, many of Moen’s colleagues were surprised by his new career, reporter Noelle Crombrie wrote.

Corporations luring government officials away from their posts for consultant work in the private sector is nothing new, particularly for drug companies and investment firms. But Moen is only the second to leave the DEA for work in companies that deal with medical marijuana, following in the footsteps of Paul Schmidt, who moved to the “dark side,” as some in the DEA consider it, in 2010.

Schmidt told TheOregonian that he has long been interested in marijuana’s potential for medical use and considers it a lesser evil than other drugs. He also said that younger members of law enforcement tend to agree: “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,'” he told the paper.

In the first month after Moen left the DEA, he said he was surprised to learn how many people he knows use marijuana. “People that are professional and that have families… all view it as an acceptable, better than acceptable, as a better alternative than other options: That was an eye opener,” he said.

Moen’s evolving views fall in line with growing public support for legalizing marijuana. According to poll results the Pew Research Center reported in April, the majority of Americans now support pot legalization. More than half of respondents in every age group except seniors said they support legalization; only 33 percent of people over 65 do. And although in 1977, 60 percent of Americans said they thought pot smoking was a “gateway” that leads to the use of harder drugs, only 38 percent said they believe that today. Seventy-two percent said that policing marijuana costs the government more than it’s worth.

It’ll be interesting to see what impact former DEA suits have on future lobbying for medical marijuana. California, for example, started approving measures for it in 1996 but legal pot clubs in the state have been routinely harassed and shut down  by the DEA.

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