Police & Fire

Police raid 2 illegal marijuana grow houses in Piscataquis County

By Christopher Burns, Bangor Daily News Staff

Police raided two illegal marijuana grow houses in Piscataquis County on Monday.

During the search of a home in Milo, police seized 2,200 marijuana plants, while another 660 were confiscated at a home in Brownville, according to the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office.

No arrests were made during those raids, but the investigations are ongoing.

The sheriff’s office said it has raided 10 illegal marijuana grows since Feb. 9, resulting in the seizure of 12,300 plants and 216 pounds of processed marijuana.

Those are just the latest large-scale illegal marijuana operations 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 Guilford 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. As 2023 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 in August, estimates Maine has 270 large-scale illegal marijuana grows connected to organized crime groups in China. The memo’s authors note 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 U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which will reportedly propose reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule III substance, 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 U.S. Sen. Susan Collins during an Appropriations Committee hearing in mid-April.

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,” Collins, U.S. Sen. Angus King and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden said in their January letter to the attorney general.

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine Darcie N. 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.

It’s unclear whether the Milo and Brownville operations are connected to other illegal marijuana grows in Maine or to the crime network described in the federal memo.

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