A bipartisan group of 50 senators and House members has requested a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland to get information on illegal marijuana cultivation operations in the United States that may be tied to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The lawmakers signed a letter to Garland on Feb. 2 to express their concerns. Leading the efforts are Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.
Maine's Congressional Delegation has been pushing the Department of Justice over this issue since last summer when a leaked document from the Department of Homeland Security suggested the illicit farms are part of a larger network involving transnational criminal organizations, King said in a press release.
Just last week, law enforcement in central Maine arrested multiple people and seized more than 6,000 marijuana plants after receiving a tip from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office about unlicensed grow operations, according to local news outlets. However, it is unclear if the raid was related to operations connected to the CCP.
Lawmakers said these types of illegal marijuana operations with ties to China have also been discovered in California, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Michigan and Nevada.
“In some cases, the grow operators were also engaged in human trafficking, forced labor, drug trafficking and violent crime,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Garland. “These farms are most commonly in states with legal marijuana programs where illicit growers try to disguise their operations in communities where law-abiding Americans live and work.”
The letter references a lawsuit filed in September 2023 by a group of Chinese immigrants alleging they were lured to northern New Mexico under false pretenses and then forced to work 14 hours a day on an illegal marijuana farm.
“This issue is not limited to the illegal cultivation and distribution of marijuana. Allowing illicit marijuana farms tied to the CCP is a continued threat to national security, public safety and human rights,” the lawmakers said.
The letter concludes with a list of questions the lawmakers would like answered by the DOJ, including how many CCP-affiliated marijuana farms the department is aware of in the U.S. and how much revenue these farms generate.
The lawmakers have requested this briefing take place no later than Feb. 23.
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