The Daily Caller first reported the existence of this problem back in August. Maine has become home to hundreds of illegal marijuana grow sites owned and operated by Chinese immigrants. Collectively, the sites are believed to produce more than $4 billion in sales per year.
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.
Authorities suspect there are two reasons so many of these operations are happening in Maine. First, it’s a very rural area where it’s relatively cheap to buy property and also easier to keep the operation out of sight. Second, Maine has very lax laws, having legalized recreational marijuana in 2016.
A news outlet called the Maine Wire reported today that law enforcement has known about these illegal sites for at least two years though no one from the FBI to the US Attorney would comment. Locals in the weed business have known about it too.
Local, state, county, and federal officials, speaking mostly on the condition of anonymity, have confirmed to the Maine Wire that various law enforcement agencies have known about this foreign network of illicit drug manufacturing and distribution for more than two years…
Marijuana grown at these sites is notorious in Maine’s legal cannabis industry as “Triad weed.”
“When I say they function like a mafia, it is absolutely true,” one longtime veteran of Maine’s medicinal and recreational pot industry told the Maine Wire. “They have a very intricate network.”
Many of these properties come with many acres of land but the grow operations take place indoors.
Almost all of the sites have had extensive modifications to houses, garages, and outbuildings to support marijuana growing, including the installation of 300- or 400-amp commercial grade electricity service, consumer-owned utility poles, and multiple heat pumps.
Neighbors confirm that the houses frequently smell of marijuana and several times a year, a white van with New York or Massachusetts plates will arrive and depart. Neighbors also reported, in some cases, seeing tractor-trailer trucks delivering grow supplies…
The Maine Wire has also discovered records tying multiple sites together, including car registrations, municipal waste permits, real estate records, and other public records, which, taken together, support the determination that the grow sites are connected and centrally controlled under an umbrella organization.
The Maine Wire identified 100 of these grow sites and found the buyers were usually Chinese men, some of whom paid cash. Sometimes the new owners would sell the new property to another Chinese individual in Brooklyn or Long Island. This seems to be where the owners of the operation are based. The Wire wasn’t able to verify the immigration status of the people involved but notes there is nothing preventing Chinese individuals from buying property, even if they are here illegally. Of course it’s a bit suspicious if illegal immigrants have hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for properties in cash. The Daily Caller story suggests the Chinese operators sometimes accept money from Mexican cartels to fund the property purchases.
The giveaway that the homes are being converted to grow sites is the high electricity usage. Grow houses use special lights which require a lot of energy and also generate a lot of heat. To mitigate the heat the owners often install multiple heat pumps in a single house. All of this requires a lot of power which means single homes are suddenly calling the city to install commercial grade electrical service of 400 amps or more, which makes no sense for a normal home.
“Usually it’s like a 10 KVA transformer that they overload out of a, like a regular house. You won’t even be able to tell,” said a CMP Linesman. “And so we gotta go upgrade and usually one person will come out and stare at us the whole time. They usually don’t know any English”
The other giveaway is that, to control light and dark cycles for maximum growth, the windows of these homes are completely covered. The Maine Wire drove to many of the sites they identified and found they had blocked windows and upgrade electrical service. At one site a Chinese woman came out but she only spoke Mandarin.
A single house set up for this kind of operation can produce about 100 pounds of marijuana four times a year. The going rate for a pound is less than $800 in Maine where adults are allowed to grow their own weed at home. But in New York the price is closer to $3,000 per pound, hence the white vans that show up regularly to move the product down Interstate 95.