Sen. Susan Collins takes up issue of marijuana farm bust

 April 22, 2024

Somerset County, Maine police seized another marijuana business. Harmony County officers searched a Cooley Rd. residence where 3,400 plants were seized.

Dongming Liao of California was apprehended on scene. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is pushing the subject again on Capitol Hill, as WMTW reported.

She has written many letters to the U.S. Attorney General's office criticizing its response to the recent spike in activities.

AG Response

"The response letter provided almost no substantive information on whether the Department is making this a priority..." Collins said, in part.

In response, Maine Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that the DEA, FBI, IRS, and Homeland Security are collaborating with local authorities to investigate the illegal operations.

Off the beaten path in rural Maine, law enforcement was alerted to an illicit marijuana grow operation by the residence's high electricity consumption, cardboard-covered windows, and offensive odor.

Authorities describe the bust of the residence housing a clandestine growing facility and the subsequent confiscation of approximately 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of processed marijuana as the most recent instance of a years-long pattern in which foreign nationals exploit U.S. state laws that have authorized cannabis for recreational or medical purposes in order to manufacture the drug for illicit markets in the United States, as ABC News reported.

DEA's Action

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is conducting an investigation into international criminal organizations that operate illegal marijuana grows in approximately 20 states, including Maine, Attorney Garland Merrick Garland stated this week in response to a question raised by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Since June, federal law enforcement officials have issued approximately forty search warrants and there are approximately one hundred illegal grow operations in Maine, including the one in Passadumkeag, which is located approximately sixty miles north of Bangor.

According to court documents unsealed this week, Xisen Guo, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in China, is accused of converting the house in Passadumkeag into a high-tech, illegal grow operation.

The Recent Order

On Friday, he was ordered detained without bail on federal drug charges, becoming the first individual in Maine to face federal charges in this particular case. A detention hearing is scheduled for Monday.

The Internal Revenue Service and Department of Homeland Security, along with the FBI and DEA and local law enforcement, are working together to get to the bottom of the illicit grow operations in Maine, Garland said.

Although marijuana use by adults has been legalized, producers
are required to obtain a license from the state. Court documents indicate that Guo was conducting an unlicensed operation, as stated by the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy.

Illegal Operations

Illicit-growing operations began to proliferate throughout the United States several years ago. Thousands of marijuana plants were seized and a Seattle woman was arrested by U.S. authorities in 2018 as part of an investigation into an operation with Chinese ties.

Oklahoma officials discovered that straw owners in China and Mexico were conducting illicit operations following the state's 2018 medical marijuana legalization.

Officials claim that the legitimacy of marijuana cultivation and use in those states provides a veneer of concealment for illicit grow operations, which may escape detection. The marijuana is subsequently transported through states where its possession is prohibited.

U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee of Maine has said that preventing illicit cultivation operations with international ties is a top priority for law enforcement, adding, "We will continue to utilize all available resources as necessary to achieve this goal."

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