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  • Bangor Daily News

    Man arrested after police raid illegal marijuana grow house in Canaan

    By Christopher Burns,


    A Canaan man was arrested Wednesday after police raided an illegal marijuana grow house in town a day earlier.

    Jian Ji Wu, 63, has been charged with illegal cultivation of marijuana and drug trafficking, according to the Waterville Morning Sentinel .

    Wu was arrested about 10:30 a.m. in the parking lot outside the Skowhegan Walgreens, the Sentinel reported.

    That follows the Tuesday raid on a Hinckley Road home in Canaan, where Somerset County sheriff’s deputies seized nearly 900 plants and more than 30 pounds of processed marijuana, according to the newspaper.

    It’s just the latest large-scale illegal marijuana operation uncovered in Maine in recent months.

    Since the beginning of the new year, police have been active in busting these large operations, which have been found all over rural Maine, from Brownville , Guilford , Milo and Sangerville in Piscataquis County, to Corinna , Eddington and Passadumkeag in Penobscot County, to Turner in Androscoggin County, to Cornville , Harmony , Madison , Mercer , Norridgewock , Ripley and Skowhegan in Somerset County, to Jay in Franklin County, to Belgrade , China and Chelsea in Kennebec County, to Jefferson and Whitefield in Lincoln County, to Belmont and Freedom in Waldo County.

    These operations received greater scrutiny after the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office found an illegal marijuana grow house in Carmel , where police seized 3,400 plants and 111 pounds of processed marijuana in late June 2023. As the year dragged on, police uncovered other large illegal marijuana operations in Dexter , Wilton , Machias and other communities.

    A leaked federal government memo , first obtained by the conservative Daily Caller and published last August, estimated that Maine had as many as 270 large-scale illegal marijuana grows connected to organized crime groups in China. The memo’s authors noted that the money may be used to further crime in the U.S. or be sent back to China. These operations generate an estimated $4.37 billion in revenue.

    “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,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine Darcie N. McElwee said earlier this month.

    McElwee said that more than 40 illegal marijuana operations have been shut down in recent months, while approximately 100 more may continue to be operating in Maine.

    “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,” McElwee vowed.

    So far, no connections have been found to illegal immigration or human trafficking, with most suspects being either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

    Maine’s congressional delegation has twice pressed the U.S. Justice Department to crack down on these illegal marijuana operations, most recently on Jan. 25, 2024 .

    “We applaud Maine law enforcement for their continued efforts to investigate and shutdown these illegal operations, and we encourage the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other federal partners to provide additional support for these efforts. These illegal growing operations are detrimental to Maine businesses that comply with State laws, and we urge the DOJ to shut them down,” U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden said in their January letter to the attorney general.

    The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is investigating criminal syndicates running illegal grows in at least 20 states . That revelation from U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland came in response to questioning by Collins during an Appropriations Committee hearing in mid-April.

    Wu was being held on $25,000 bail at the Somerset County Jail in Madison. He was scheduled to appear in court on these charges on Aug. 7, according to the Sentinel.

    It’s unclear whether the Canaan operation is connected to other illegal marijuana grows in Maine or to the crime network described in the federal memo.

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