The Maine Legislature will consider a bill next year that aims to address the proliferation of illegal Chinese-owned marijuana growing operations across rural Maine.
The Legislative Council, which is comprised to top ranking state lawmakers, voted by a slim margin to allow a bill from Rep. John Andrews (R-Paris) to be considered when the legislature reconvenes in January.
Rep. Andrew’s bill — An Act to Combat Racketeering by Foreign Organizations in Maine Cannabis Markets — is intended to provide local, county, and state law enforcement agencies with the authority and tools to combat what the Department of Homeland Security refers to as Asian Transnational Criminal Organizations (ATCOs).
“I’m grateful that the Legislative Council took this clear and present danger to Maine seriously by letting my bill in for the 2nd Session,” Andrews told the Maine Wire.
“I want the bill to cut through bureaucratic red tape and empower state, county and local law enforcement and prosecutors to work together to combat this ongoing criminal enterprise,” Andrews said.
Sen. Eloise Vitelli (D-Sagadahoc), Rep. Maureen Terry (D-Gorham), and Rep. Kristen Cloutier (D-Lewiston) were the only Legislative Council members who voted against the proposal.
Two other bills related to marijuana cultivation by ATCOs, one from Rep. Mike Soboleski (R-Phillips) and another from Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor), did not make it through Thursday’s meeting of the council.
Faulkingham’s bill died after getting no votes from Vitelli, Terry, Cloutier, Sen. Mattie Daughtry (D-Cumberland), and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland).
Every Democrat on the council, including Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), voted against Soboleski’s bill.
“I’m extremely disappointed that the Democrat controlled Legislative Council didn’t take up my bill that would tackle the illegal Chinese marijuana operations happening right now in rural Maine,” said Soboleski. “This is a serious issue and we need action. “
The vote on Andrew’s bill comes just one day after the Maine Wire published an investigative report detailing the sprawling network of Chinese-owned marijuana growing operations throughout rural Maine.
Eight weeks ago, Maine’s Congressional Delegation called on the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland to crackdown on the illicit operations; however, no one from DOJ or the AG’s office has responded.