What happens to the marijuana seized from illegal Maine grow houses?

By Marie Weidmayer, Bangor Daily News Staff

Police departments across Maine have seized hundreds of pounds of marijuana during the last year in dozens of illegal grow house raids.

Since June 2023, police have raided more than 40 properties across the state where marijuana was being illegally grown. While police have not reported the amount of marijuana seized from every raid, more than 52,000 marijuana plants and 900 pounds of processed cannabis were seized from 31 locations, according to data analyzed by the Bangor Daily News. 

With every week seemingly bringing a new raid in the state, an obvious question has emerged: What do police do with all that pot? 

Calls to more than 15 police departments and sheriff’s offices that have conducted raids on illegal grow houses in Maine were not returned by the time of publication. 

However, the Maine State Police was able to provide insight into the procedure it follows for such drug seizures. 

Maine State Police retains a small amount of the drugs as evidence and incinerates the rest, spokesperson Shannon Moss said. The Maine State Police has taken possession of only a small portion of marijuana seized in the recent raids.

The public is not exposed to the burning drugs, Moss said. There’s a filtration system used during the process and it’s much different than burning the plants in a backyard. The facilities used to destroy the drugs are approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

State and federal police have focused heavily on the illegal grows in recent months. Homes, typically in rural Maine, are turned into growing and processing facilities that have ties to Chinese organized crime, FBI Director Christopher Wray said previously. A leaked government memo from August 2023 said Maine may have 270 illegal large-scale grows that could generate $4.37 billion in revenue.

Police have raided numerous properties across rural Maine since the beginning of this year, from Brownville, Guilford, Milo, and Sangerville in Piscataquis County, to Corinna, Eddington, Holden, and Passadumkeag in Penobscot County, to Turner in Androscoggin County, to Canaan, Cornville, Harmony, Madison, Mercer, Norridgewock, Ripley, Skowhegan, Solon, and St. Albans in Somerset County, to Jay in Franklin County, to Belgrade, China, Chelsea, Farmingdale, and Manchester in Kennebec County, to Jefferson and Whitefield in Lincoln County, to Belmont and Freedom in Waldo County.

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