270 Maine properties suspected law enforcement of being used as illegal weed farms by Chinese nationals

“We think the Chinese are taking advantage of rural areas"

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A federal memo revealed that law enforcement officials have identified 270 properties in Maine that are suspected of being used for illegal marijuana grow operations by Chinese nationals who are residents or in the US on asylum claims. 

The memo obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation was distributed within the Border Patrol and estimates that the operations could produce $4.37 billion in revenue. 

A law enforcement source speaking on conditions of anonymity told the outlet, “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 memo adds 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” if it can run three cycles per year with 100 plants. 

It estimates that those involved use the I-95 interstate as "the main transport route for bulk cash, illegal narcotics, illegal aliens as this is the most desirable route throughout the state of Maine." It continued, "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." 

In 2020, Maine legalized the use of marijuana for recreational use and allows residents that are over 21 years old to cultivate up to three mature plants, up to 12 immature plants, and an unlimited number of seedlings for personal use. 

Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton said, "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's office found an illegal operation recently that had 3,400 cannabis plants and 111 pounds of processed marijuana.

Former head of the DEA’s Special Operations Division Derek Maltz told the outlet that the operations are usually a partnership between Chinese crime organizations and the Mexican Cartels. "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.”

“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,” he added. 

Maine is not the only state that is dealing with these kinds of illegal grow operations. In May, it was reported that Chinese criminal gangs are taking advantage of Oklahoma's cheap land and relaxed growing requirements. At the time, almost half of the state's 6,300 licensed grow farms were under investigation by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics for possible links to illegal black market sales. 

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