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Updated: January 31, 2024

Maine delegation urges crackdown on illegal marijuana growers

cannabis plants Photo / Maine's congressional delegation is urging a U.S. Department of Justice crackdown on illegal marijuana operations in Maine.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation have renewed their call for a federal crackdown on illegal marijuana-growing operations in Maine.

In a letter yesterday to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, the lawmakers highlight the increasing number of unlicensed grows they contend are detrimental to ones that obey state laws.

The lawmakers had originally flagged the problem in a letter last August, citing reports from U.S. Border Patrol officials about the illicit operations, which are allegedly connected to individuals from China.

“Since that time, there have been multiple raids across the state, resulting in eight arrests this year alone and more than 4,400 cannabis plants seized by police at four growing sites in Belgrade, China [Maine] and Cornville," the lawmakers wrote in their two-page follow-up missive.

The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine 1st District and Jared Golden, D-Maine 2nd District.

“We applaud Maine law enforcement for their continued efforts to investigate and shutdown these illegal operations, and we encourage the Department of Justice and other federal partners to provide additional support for these efforts,” the letter says. “These illegal growing operations are detrimental to Maine businesses that comply with State laws, and we urge the DOJ to shut them down.”

Cause and effect 

The letter goes on to say that Maine towns and legally operated dispensaries have been seeing and feeling the effects of the illegal operations. 

“While these illegal operations may be secretive, they are often not hard to spot for neighbors in these tight-knit communities; the arrests and seizures in Belgrade occurred when state troopers executed search warrants following community complaints." The letter also cites court documents from a case in Carmel showing that the house rented by one defendant was billed $6,900 a month for power, indicating a large-scale operation.

“These illegal operations may be impacting legally run dispensaries that are diligently complying with Maine state laws — one dispensary owner estimates that these illegal growers are selling marijuana for half the price that she purchases product from ‘by-the-book’ growers,” the lawmakers wrote. “This cost differential is unfair.”

King, Collins, Pingree and Golden are asking the DOJ to indicate what it is doing to address illegal growing operations, and what if any additional support the agency needs from Congress to support Maine law enforcement in the matter.

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