by Jennie Taer
Lucrative Chinese illegal marijuana grow operations are popping up all over Maine, according to a federal memorandum distributed within Border Patrol that was obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Law enforcement in Maine identified 270 suspected properties used for Chinese illegal marijuana grow operations that could produce an estimated $4.37 billion in revenue, the July memo states. Chinese nationals who either have resident status in the U.S. or asylum claims that prevent them from being removed from the country tend to operate such grows, a federal law enforcement source, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly, told the DCNF.
“We think the Chinese are taking advantage of rural areas, like Maine, to produce marijuana to sell across state lines and funnel the profits back to China,” the federal law enforcement source said.
The memo included a heat map showing that large areas of Maine are occupied by Chinese illegal marijuana grows, generating profits that are sent to China.
“There’s no deterrence,” former head of the DEA’s Special Operations Division Derek Maltz told the DCNF. “Criminals are masters at taking advantage of the vulnerabilities.”
Meanwhile, Maine allows residents that are at least 21 years of age to grow as many as three mature plants and 12 immature plants for personal use, according to the state’s Office of Cannabis Policy.
Authorities in Bangor, Maine, recently busted an illegal grow operation with 3,400 individual marijuana plants as well as 111 pounds of processed marijuana, according to WABI 5, a local news outlet.
“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,” Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton, whose office was involved in the bust, told the DCNF.
There are roughly 749 properties associated with individuals tied to operations in Maine and the state of Washington, according to the memo.
When Chinese criminal organizations are involved, there is often collaboration with Mexican cartels, Maltz said.
“They take the cash from the cartels in America, and they buy these properties and they do these investments with cash from the Mexican cartels in our own country. This is part of their laundering scheme,” Maltz said.
“So, not only are they providing this unbelievably important service to the Mexican cartels by picking up the cash and doing the money transfers over the banking apps and stuff like that, but they’re using the cash in America to buy land, to buy real estate, to buy property to invest in these grow operations,” Maltz added, noting that the operations are extremely profitable as they trade in an untaxed product.
The massive amounts of profits made from the illegal grows are often used for more crimes or go 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.
Most individuals under investigation for being involved in illegal marijuana grows aren’t U.S. citizens, according to Morton.
“Regardless of where the individuals are from, the true problem involves conflicting state and federal laws. We also have little to no oversight, allowing for criminal activity to occur at a high degree,” Morton said.
Smugglers utilize Interstate 95 to transport contraband related from 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.
– – –
Jennie Taer is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Marijuana Farm” by Cannabis Tours. CC BY-SA 4.0.