Members of Maine’s congressional delegation are renewing their call for a federal investigation into illegal Chinese-owned marijuana growing operations following a Maine Wire investigation that identified more than 100 foreign-owned drug houses in rural Maine.
“This reporting reaffirms the severity of the potential harm these illegal Chinese marijuana growing operations pose to communities throughout Maine,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement to the Maine Wire.
“To help address the public health and national security risks, I, along with the entire Maine Delegation, called on the U.S. Department of Justice to swiftly investigate and shut down these criminal enterprises,” said Collins.
“I will continue to press DOJ to take all appropriate actions to ensure these criminals can no longer operate in Maine,” she said.
The Maine Wire report, published Wednesday, showed how Chinese-owned marijuana growing operations have proliferated across rural Maine over the past three years — even as law enforcement is aware of their activities.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice have not responded to a letter Maine’s congressional delegation sent in August demanding federal enforcement against these sites.
Almost all of the illicit marijuana grows are in Maine’s Second Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, of Lewiston.
“The idea of Chinese organized crime putting Mainers out of business is unacceptable – especially in our own backyards,” Rep. Golden said in a statement to the Maine Wire.
“I’ve joined the rest of the delegation in demanding answers from the Department of Justice since these reports became public this summer, and it’s clear this remains an urgent issue,” Golden said.
Maine State Reps. Mike Soboleski (R-Phillips) and Austin Theriault (R-Fort Kent), the Republican candidates seeking to win the 2024 GOP primary nomination in Maine’s Second Congressional District, also weighed in.
“Our government has failed us on so many levels here, and regular Mainers are the ones who are losing,” Rep. Theriault said.
“It’s really shocking to me that there apparently is not the political willpower in Maine to shut this down,” Theriault said. “Rural Maine is getting overlooked yet again.”
Rep. Soboleski said he was backing legislation at the state level that would equip law enforcement with the authority they need to shutter the operations.
“The government’s failure to curb illegal Chinese marijuana operations in rural Maine is appalling,” said Rep. Soboleski. “Our Maine citizens are living in towns rife with dangerous criminal organizations making millions in profit while nothing is done to stop it.
“I won’t stand for it,” Soboleski said.
“That’s why I’ve sponsored L.R. 2903, “An Act to Provide Investigative Authority to the Maine State Police, Sheriffs and Local Police Regarding Maine’s Recreational Cannabis Laws and Ordinances to Ensure Proper Enforcement” so we can tackle this crisis head-on and take back our land and protect our Maine way of life,” he said.
The fate of L.R. 2903 will hinge on Thursday’s meeting of the Legislative Council, where the bills that will be considered next year will be decided by legislative leadership.
Gov. Janet Mills did not respond to a request for comment.