Results 1 to 4 of 4
  1. #1
    Thailand Expat misskit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Last Online
    @
    Location
    Chiang Mai
    Posts
    47,697

    How Chinese Marijuana Operations Cropped Up in Small-Town America

    CARMEL, Maine—An astronomical electricity bill was the first tipoff that something unusual was going on at a former chicken farm in this town of 3,000 people off Interstate 95.


    A Massachusetts-registered construction company had bought the 5.5-acre property in 2021. But instead of construction equipment moving in, a new power pole sprang up. Electricity use jumped to nearly $7,000 in December 2022 from $600 a month a year earlier.


    In June, after neighbor complaints, the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office said it carried out a search warrant of the property, seizing some 3,400 marijuana plants and 111 pounds of processed marijuana. The state said it was prosecuting two Chinese nationals and two naturalized U.S. citizens of Chinese origin on charges including illegal cultivation and trafficking of marijuana.


    State and local officials identified the Carmel property as one of many unlicensed marijuana-growing operations throughout Maine that are run by Chinese networks. According to court documents, one of the defendants in the case told police that from Exit 130 to Exit 244 on I-95, a stretch of more than 100 miles, “all the Chinese people are growing marijuana.”

    The defendant couldn’t be reached to comment.


    Following the legalization of marijuana in many states, Chinese-run marijuana farms have emerged across the U.S. Some are run by investor groups with a commercial growing license. But just as illegal marijuana shops have proliferated, so have unlicensed growing operations.


    Illegal marijuana-growing, whether on a small or large scale, isn’t a new phenomenon in the U.S. “We were all illegal at one point,” said a now-licensed grower in Maine.


    Chinese growing operations have drawn special attention in recent months, especially from conservative news sites. Law-enforcement officials in several states say that while some large-scale illegal growing operations are tied to Mexican cartels and other international networks, a large number are run by Chinese transnational crime organizations.


    Oklahoma has shut down nearly 1,000 marijuana farms since late 2020, with about 80% to 90% of them linked to Chinese organized crime rings, said Mark Woodward, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. “It’s an open all-cash business that requires large land purchases,” he said.


    Crackdowns in Southern and Western states may explain why such operations are popping up across Maine.


    The Daily Caller News Foundation, a conservative news organization, reported in August that law-enforcement agencies had identified 270 properties in Maine suspected of being used for Chinese illegal marijuana growing, citing a memo from the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to a request for comment.

    Maine law-enforcement officials declined to put a number on suspected Chinese growing operations in the state. Court documents show that two other properties in Carmel were suspected of unlicensed marijuana cultivation and that the state is separately prosecuting two other suspects of Chinese origin.


    “I believe that they are going for the most rural, unregulated spots they can find,” one Maine official said.


    New arrivals

    Chinese-operated marijuana farms often rely heavily on Chinese immigrants working under conditions indicative of human trafficking and forced labor, said Aaron Halegua, a lawyer representing Chinese workers who say they have been exploited in the cannabis industry.


    In New Mexico, state prosecutors are investigating a licensed marijuana farm for alleged wage theft and human trafficking, according to workers who say they are cooperating with the probe.


    One worker, who said he fled China in March after a crackdown on the underground church he was a member of, said he reached the U.S. after a treacherous journey through Central America and first found a restaurant job in New York City. When a job-placement agency promised him $150 a day for a job making herbal medicine in New Mexico, he paid more than $600 for a flight to Albuquerque in early August.


    A Chinese manager picked him up at the airport. Soon after he got to the farm, he started to worry something was wrong. Workers were fed instant noodles made with cold water and slept on hard boards. Some said they hadn’t been paid. A few days after he arrived, two drones and a helicopter descended on the farm, with law-enforcement officials announcing a raid in Mandarin Chinese, he and other workers said.


    “They didn’t treat us as human,” said another worker who crossed the southern U.S. border in July. He said workers weren’t allowed to leave the farm and, without a car, had no means of escape.


    A spokeswoman for the state prosecutor’s office said the office is investigating a farm in Estancia, N.M., about an hour from Albuquerque. She declined to offer more information, citing a continuing investigation.


    Some workers said they responded to online job ads. One website targeting Chinese-speakers offered jobs in Oklahoma under the headings of “farming and gardening,” “grass planting” or “flower arranging.” Some of the ads spelled out that the jobs were on marijuana farms.


    Lucrative market


    In California, Chinese networks have seized on the highly lucrative black market in marijuana growing, said Lt. Raymond Framstad of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office, who has investigated more than 20 cases involving unlicensed Chinese-run operations.

    Many Chinese networks have enough equipment for several large residential operations, he said. They find the house that they want, equip it to grow marijuana a year or longer before the police crack down, then fix the property up and sell it at a profit, he said. A residential black-market growing operation can be set up for as many as six harvests a year, bringing in an annual profit of several million dollars depending on the size, said Framstad, who oversees the marijuana enforcement team at the sheriff’s office.


    Even when Chinese-run growing operations operate with a license, illicit activity sometimes emerges around them, such as trade in marijuana across state lines—illegal under federal law—money laundering or human trafficking, law-enforcement officials said.

    According to a social-media post by the Oklahoma Narcotics Bureau, the state indicted two Chinese men on human-trafficking charges, alleging that they operated an Oklahoma City brothel where between late last year and early this year, approximately a dozen women were trafficked.


    “Evidence from the investigation shows many of the clients of the brothel were managers and administrators of commercial marijuana farms,” the post said. The men couldn’t be reached for comment.


    Oklahoma has started to rein in its approvals of growing licenses as a result of several investigations into marijuana-growing operations in the state.


    The number of active grower licenses dropped to 3,200 so far this year from around 9,400 in 2021, Woodward said. Only half of the applications handed in last year have been approved.


    “We’ve really changed the climate from just kind of being the Wild West,” he said.


    In Maine, adults can only grow a small number of plants for personal use. Some municipalities have also legalized commercial cultivation. Carmel isn’t one of them.


    Court records suggest Chinese operations in Maine use I-95 to shuttle marijuana south, including to Boston and New York City. Licensed growers have put pressure on authorities to stamp out unlicensed growing operations that make it harder for them to compete.


    On Nov. 16, Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) met with Anne Milgram, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, on federal efforts to address illegal Chinese growing operations in Maine and other drug-related problems. “We must put an end to these criminal enterprises that are flooding our state and infiltrating our rural communities,” the senator said, according to a statement from her office.

    While enforcing local marijuana laws is primarily a state problem, there is interest from federal authorities who see criminal activity by transnational organizations as a potential national-security issue, said Kenneth Gray, a senior lecturer at the University of New Haven and a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent.


    In Carmel on a recent afternoon, residents were blowing leaves and putting out holiday decorations. But a sense of unease has lingered since the June marijuana bust. “We were all surprised when we first heard about it,” said one Carmel shop owner. “Out here you don’t really expect things like that.”


    Some 20 miles away, at a store selling marijuana-growing supplies near Bangor, a customer was refilling eight silver tanks of carbon dioxide essential for growing marijuana plants. By the cash register, store policies were displayed in both English and Chinese.


    The company operating the store didn’t respond to requests for comment on whether the number of Chinese customers have increased.

    How Chinese Marijuana Operations Cropped Up in Small-Town America - WSJ

  2. #2
    Thailand Expat
    spliff's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Last Online
    23-01-2024 @ 08:31 AM
    Location
    Upper N.East
    Posts
    2,081
    My home state Maine has got rid of them and are aware and vigilant against these foreign pests.

  3. #3
    Hangin' Around cyrille's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Last Online
    @
    Location
    Home
    Posts
    33,229
    Quote Originally Posted by spliff View Post
    My home state Maine has got rid of them.
    The story is mostly about Maine and, while progress has been made, it doesn't sound like they've been 'got rid of'.

  4. #4
    Thailand Expat
    spliff's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Last Online
    23-01-2024 @ 08:31 AM
    Location
    Upper N.East
    Posts
    2,081
    It's a rehash This story broke two yrs ago. Contradictions are everywhere.

    Oh, can anybody tell me the difference between Tongue in Cheek and Irony?
    Last edited by spliff; 01-12-2023 at 08:21 AM.

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •