Maine’s congressional delegation renewed their call for federal action to be taken against a sprawling network of illegal Chinese-owned marijuana growing operations across the state in a Jan. 25 letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The delegation’s letter comes as a follow-up to an initial letter sent in August in which Maine’s members of Congress called upon the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shut down the illegal grow operations.
Since June 2023, 15 raids on Chinese-controlled marijuana grow operations in Maine have resulted in the seizure of more than 18,000 illegally grown marijuana plants and hundreds of pounds of processed marijuana.
U.S. Senators from Maine Susan Collins (R), Angus King (I), and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-01) and Jared Golden (D-02) wrote in their letter to Attorney General Garland that since the start of 2024, law enforcement have seized more than 4,400 cannabis plants at grows in Belgrade, China, and Cornville, Maine.
“We applaud Maine law enforcement for their continued efforts to investigate and shutdown these illegal operations, and we encourage the [DOJ] and other federal partners to provide additional support for these efforts,” Maine’s delegation wrote.
“These illegal growing operations are detrimental to Maine businesses that comply with State laws, and we urge the DOJ to shut them down,” they wrote.
The delegation stressed the financial impact the illegal grows may be having on legally run dispensaries in the state, writing that “one dispensary owner estimates that these illegal growers are selling marijuana for half the price that she purchases product from ‘by-the-book’ growers.”
“This cost differential is unfair,” the delegation wrote.
Collins, King, Pingree and Golden added that “the scale of these reported operations within the state is alarming and requires immediate action,” and reiterated the questions they posed in their prior to the DOJ:
- What is the DOJ doing to address illegal growing operations, including illegal growing operations that are run by foreign governments or entities?
- These reports identify Chinese ownership. Is the DOJ aware of this alleged Chinese ownership or any other foreign involvement in these operations?
- Are the profits from these illegal operations being returned to the country of origin? If so, through what mechanisms?
- Please provide any additional information about the memo identified in these reports, including who produced it, when the information contained in the memo was first obtained, and what actions have been taken in response?
- What action is the DOJ taking to swiftly shut down any illegal marijuana growing operations in the state of Maine?
- What support is DOJ providing to Maine law enforcement agencies (state, county, and municipal) as they work to identify and arrest those participating in illicit activity related to illegal marijuana growing operations?
- What, if any, additional support does DOJ need from Congress to support Maine law enforcement in these efforts?
In December, Sen. Collins penned a letter regarding the Chinese-owned grow operations to Maine U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee, citing national security risks and the potential involvement of Chinese transnational criminal organizations engaged in human trafficking, money laundering, and other crimes.
Read more of the Maine Wire’s “Triad Weed”
- How Chinese Marijuana Grows Took Over Rural Maine
- Triad Weed: One NYC Bank Financed More Than 50 Illicit Chinese Marijuana Grow Houses in Rural Maine…
- State Law Enforcement, Feds Struggle to Clamp Down on Illegal Chinese Drug Operations in Maine
- Maine Legislature Will Consider Proposal to Fight Chinese-owned Marijuana Operations
- Collins, Golden Renew Call for DOJ Action Against Illicit Chinese Marijuana Grows Following Maine Wire Report