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Bipartisan Group Of Lawmakers Pressure DOJ For Answers On Illegal Chinese Marijuana Grows Exposed in Maine

A bipartisan delegation of lawmakers representing Maine sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Department of Justice to shut down illegal Chinese marijuana operations that have sprung up across the state.

Law enforcement in Maine identified 270 suspected properties used for Chinese illegal marijuana grow operations with the potential to produce $4.37 billion in revenue, according to an internal Border Patrol memo obtained exclusively obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation. Independent Sen. Angus King, Republican Sen. Susan Collins, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree and Democratic Rep. Jared Golden requested that Garland explain how the Department of Justice (DOJ) is combatting the issue, according to a copy of Wednesday’s letter.

“These illegal growing operations are detrimental to Maine businesses that comply with State laws, and we urge the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shut them down,” the delegation wrote to Garland.

“These reports of illegal growing operations within the state are alarming, and we are writing to request additional information about what the DOJ is doing to address this situation,” the delegation added in their letter.

Most of the individuals involved in the illicit operations aren’t U.S. citizens, Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton, whose office was involved in a recent grow bust, previously told the DCNF.

“There are hundreds of these operations occurring throughout the state. It’s upsetting to those who live near these operations, and even those who are following Maine laws and procedures,” Morton said.

Meanwhile, the profits from the grows are largely going to fund more crimes or are sent straight to China, according to the memo.

“According to the National Drug Threat Assessment (circa 2020)- profits associated with 100 cultivated plants could produce $5.4 Million; therefore if one property produces three cycles a year at 100 plants, that one property could make $16.2 Million in revenue where the funds are likely used for other criminal activities or are sent to China,” the memo states.

Authorities believe that Interstate 95 is the main route used to transport illicit narcotics, cash and illegal aliens associated with the grows, according to the memo.

“Based on location of the properties, it is assessed that I-95 is the main transport route for bulk cash, illegal narcotics, illegal aliens as this is the most desirable route throughout the state of Maine. I-95 begins in Miami, Florida, and ends near New Brunswick. This route enables smugglers through the many connecting routes which may allow access to many adjoining states,” the memo stated.

Maine voters chose to legalize marijuana in 2016, while medical marijuana use has been legal since 1999 and was decriminalized in 1976. In 2020, recreational marijuana sale became legal.

In Maine, residents that are at least 21 years of age are permitted to grow as many as three mature plants and 12 immature plants for personal use, according to the state’s Office of Cannabis Policy.

A spokesperson for the DOJ didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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