Maine’s congressional delegation on Thursday formally urged the U.S. Department of Justice to shut down a suspected statewide ring of illegal marijuana grows that’s allegedly connected to Chinese nationals.
According to the Bangor Daily News, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, and Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden asked U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in a letter for federal law enforcement to further investigate the situation.
The delegation’s concern stems from a report last week by the Daily Caller News Foundation that a July federal memo the organization obtained tallied at least 270 properties across Maine that could be “used for Chinese illegal marijuana grow operations.”
The memo – which was circulated within the U.S. Border Patrol before it was leaked to media, according to the Daily Caller – estimated that the alleged illicit grows could generate as much as $4 billion in revenue that’s then reinvested into other criminal enterprises or “sent to China.”
“These illegal growing operations are detrimental to Maine businesses that comply with State laws, and we urge the Department of Justice to shut them down,” the lawmakers wrote, according to the Daily News.
According to the Daily News, the letter also asked Garland to disclose “(w)ho produced the memo, when was the information in it first obtained and what actions has the government taken in response to it?”
Only scant details have been made available about the alleged situation in Maine since the appearance of the memo.
The memo did not identify the supposedly Chinese-connected parcels or the extent to which the operations might connect to the Chinese government or organized crime networks.
Authorities across United States have been investigating the involvement of Chinese nationals or Americans of Chinese descent in illegal cannabis operations.
In Oklahoma, authorities say they’ve shut down hundreds of illegal grow sites “linked to Chinese investors and Chinese organized crime,” a spokesperson for the state’s Bureau of Narcotics told Politico.