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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Darcie N. McElwee Provides Statement on Illicit Marijuana Grow Operations in Maine

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maine

PORTLAND, Maine: U.S. Attorney Darcie N. McElwee issued a statement today to update the community on the Office’s ongoing efforts to combat illegal marijuana grows in rural Maine:

Local law enforcement has our full support: The U.S. Attorney’s Office and multiple federal agencies, including the DEA, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and IRS, have been actively and directly working with local and state law enforcement partners in a coordinated response to the illegal marijuana grows operating predominantly in central Maine. Simultaneously, our Office continues to investigate individuals involved in this activity for possible federal prosecution.

Investigations are having an impact: The success of our collective efforts is already evident with 40+ operations shut down and multiple arrests made over the last several months. We expect this law enforcement action to continue until the individuals operating the illegal grows come to understand that Maine is not a safe or hospitable place for such activity. I cannot speak more highly of the collaborative and coordinated efforts that have taken place across Maine to date and the strong federal, state and local partnerships and support that exists in Maine.

Interstate distribution and potential ties to China warrant federal involvement: According to the DEA, there are currently transnational criminal organizations involved in illegal marijuana growing activities in at least 20 states. The possibility that organized criminal enterprises with alleged ties to China are using Maine properties to profit from unlicensed marijuana operations and interstate distribution makes it clear that there is need for a strong and sustained federal, state and local effort to shut down and thoroughly investigate these operations.

To date, there is no evidence of illegal immigration associated with the illicit marijuana grows: To date, we have seen no evidence of illegal U.S. border crossings into Maine by any individuals associated with these illicit grows. Rather, the individuals tending these grows in homes across central Maine who have been encountered by law enforcement have been individuals who are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents living in states like New York and Massachusetts. An investigation into three Chinese nationals recently apprehended at a border crossing in northern Maine showed no connection to illegal marijuana grows.

To date, our investigation has encountered no evidence of human trafficking: Through coordination and execution of more than 40 search warrants, investigators have seen no evidence of human trafficking to date. From what we know now, the individuals working in these illicit grows appear to be doing so willingly. Human trafficking is a heinous crime that our Office takes seriously. Any evidence of human trafficking will be thoroughly investigated and if discovered, vigorously prosecuted.

Number of illicit grows: Based on information currently available to federal authorities involved, there are approximately 100 illicit marijuana grows that have been identified operating in Maine. This number has and will fluctuate as law enforcement continues to shut down the operations or those involved abandon the grows to avoid arrest or prosecution. No Maine property owner or anyone else should ever be assumed to be part of a criminal enterprise simply because of their surname or nationality.



Jana Spaulding, Public Information Officer Contractor, (207-771-3232)

Updated May 3, 2024

Drug Trafficking