Republican U.S. Senator from Maine Susan Collins was briefed Thursday by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram on efforts to combat Maine’s hundreds of illegal Chinese-owned marijuana grow operations, as well as the opioid epidemic and the rise of crystal meth use in the state.
This briefing comes on the heels of a Maine Wire investigative report that identified more than 100 properties in rural Maine that are part of a vast network of illicit Chinese marijuana grows.
Sen. Collins said in a Friday press release that she and Administrator Milgram “discussed the recent reporting on the illegal Chinese marijuana growing operations in Maine and the potential harm they pose to our public health and national security.”
“We must put an end to these criminal enterprises that are flooding our State and infiltrating our rural communities,” Collins said. “I will continue to push the Department of Justice, including the DEA, to work with state and local law enforcement and shut down these illegal operations.”
Collins and the Maine congressional delegation wrote a letter in August to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting information on what steps the Department of Justice was taking to shut down the illegal grow operations.
Following the Maine Wire’s investigation, Sen. Collins and Democratic Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) renewed their calls for a federal investigation into the illegal drug houses, citing “the severity of the potential harm these illegal Chinese marijuana growing operations pose to communities throughout Maine.”
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Collins and the DEA Administrator also discussed the growing opioid epidemic and the increased use of crystal meth in Maine.
Overdose deaths in Maine have been on the rise in recent years, with a total of 2,232 Mainers suffering fatal overdoses from 2019 to 2022.
The most recent state statistics report a total of 7,538 total overdoses in Maine in 2023 as of September, with 462 of those overdoses being fatal.
“No community is immune from the opioid epidemic, and I commend the men and women of the DEA for their work to combat illicit opioid trafficking and distribution,” Collins said Friday. “While we continue to target deadly opioids, we must not lose sight of the need to protect our communities from other emerging threats.”
Collins described the increase in crystal meth seizures in Maine — from 3 kilograms in 2021 to 72 kilograms in 2022 — as “incredibly shocking.”