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    Triad Weed: How Chinese Marijuana Grows Took Over Rural Maine

    Triad Weed: How Chinese Marijuana Grows Took Over Rural Maine


    NOVEMBER 8, 2023

    UPDATED:JANUARY 24, 2024

    Illegal Chinese marijuana grows have taken over much of rural Maine.

    The government is either incapable — or unwilling — to do anything about it.

    The Maine Wire has identified more than 100 properties that are part of a sprawling network of Chinese-owned sites operating as unlicensed, illicit cannabis growing operations in rural Maine.

    According to an unclassified memo from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) obtained by the Maine Wire, the illicit grows are operated by Asian Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs).

    The properties cover Somerset County, Penobscot County, Kennebec County, Franklin County, Androscoggin County, and Oxford County.

    The sites were purchased over the past three years by single adults, primarily from New York and Massachusetts, using cash or financing arranged through a handful of mortgage companies.

    The Maine Wire investigation began following the leak of a separate DHS memo that revealed the existence of more than 270 such sites in Maine.

    That memo, first reported by Jennie Taer of the Daily Caller News Foundation, offered the first public confirmation of what law enforcement officials have long known, but what neighbors to these properties and legal marijuana entrepreneurs have only suspected.

    Namely, that Chinese foreign nationals are exploiting Maine’s lax marijuana laws, the Biden Administration’s immigration policies, and cheap real estate in rural Maine to grow a fortune using exploited illegal alien laborers.

    [RELATED: Illegal Chinese Marijuana Grow Operations Are Taking Over Maine, Leaked Memo Says: DCNF EXCLUSIVE…]


    Nationwide, there are approximately 749 properties that DHS has linked to Asian TCOs.

    The leaked memo included a spreadsheet, which has not been made public, that identified “270 properties within [Maine] that are actively used by the Chinese in relation to their operations.”

    Local, state, county, and federal officials, speaking mostly on the condition of anonymity, have confirmed to the Maine Wire that various law enforcement agencies have known about this foreign network of illicit drug manufacturing and distribution for more than two years.

    On Sept. 15, DHS sent the following memo to Maine law enforcement asking for help gathering intel on the properties:
    We are requesting a response by state, county, and/or local law enforcement officials with any information regarding illegal marijuana grows being operated in their areas by suspected Asian Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO). This collection effort is supporting a national intelligence gathering initiative to identify a comprehensive picture of the threat posed to national security by Asian TCOs operating illegally in the United States.

    A typical response may include:

    • confirmation that this activity is occurring
    • the number of suspected grows in your area of responsibility
    • reports by concerned citizens or local officials relating to illegal grow operations by Asian TCOs
    • or any other information respondents may deem of value.

    “There are hundreds of these operations occurring throughout the state. It’s upsetting to those who live near these operations, and even those who are following Maine laws and procedures,” Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton told the DCNF.

    Maine’s congressional delegation has called upon the Department of Justice to shutter the operation, but Attorney General Merrick Garland has yet to respond in writing.

    Most of the properties were acquired after Maine legalized the sale of recreational pot in 2020.

    According to the DHS memos, the sites are operated by Chinese foreign nationals, some who are in the U.S. illegally.

    DHS believes the network earns an estimated total income of $4.37 billion per year, some of which is returned to entities in the People’s Republic of China.

    The locations of the sites — and the names of their owners — have not been publicly released.

    Each pin represents a property in Maine purchased within the past three years that shows evidence of having been used to cultivate marijuana.

    [Got a tip? Send us an email!]

    Triad Weed in Rural Maine

    Marijuana grown at these sites is notorious in Maine’s legal cannabis industry as “Triad weed.”

    “When I say they function like a mafia, it is absolutely true,” one longtime veteran of Maine’s medicinal and recreational pot industry told the Maine Wire. “They have a very intricate network.”

    Scrupulous dispensaries avoid purchasing or selling marijuana from the illicit grows because it has a reputation for containing pesticides, fungicides, and other banned or harmful contaminants.

    But legal growers all agree that at least some Triad weed is entering Maine markets.

    “I would say most of their product ends up skipping across the border,” the industry veteran said. “But the shit that stays in Maine is what is helping to contribute to the collapse of flower prices.”

    The operators of these foreign-owned sites are also notorious around grow supply shops in Maine, where they are often found buying thousands of dollars in cultivation supplies.

    Speaking little to no English, the operators acquire supplies by pointing at images on their phones or by having someone out-of-state translate over the phone.

    According to DHS, the Asian TCOs use the proceeds of the marijuana grows to fund other illegal activities, including narcotics trafficking and human trafficking.

    The DCNF reported, based on Maine and federal sources, that many of the participants in the operation are either in the U.S. illegally or have applied for asylum status or permanent residency.

    Morton, the sheriff of Penobscot County, told DCNF most individuals under investigation for being involved in illegal marijuana grows aren’t U.S. citizens.

    “Regardless of where the individuals are from, the true problem involves conflicting state and federal laws. We also have little to no oversight, allowing for criminal activity to occur at a high degree,” Morton said.

    Morton declined to elaborate on those comments, instead referring the Maine Wire to the U.S. Attorney of Maine.
    A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney of Maine declined to comment for this story.

    A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the agency that published the original leaked memo, declined to comment on the memo.

    “The US Border Patrol coordinates closely with our interagency partners when conducting investigations and when taking enforcement actions,” the spokesperson said. “It would not be appropriate for the USBP to comment on behalf of other agencies.”

    “Furthermore, Border Patrol does not publicly disclose sources of information, investigative methods, or other information that may jeopardize the safety of witnesses or otherwise compromise any investigation,” said the spokesperson.

    The Maine Wire offered to provide the U.S. Attorney of Maine and the Maine State Police with a list of illicit foreign-owned marijuana grows in Maine prior to the publication of this story, but both declined.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been investigating illegal Chinese marijuana grows in Maine for at least two years, declined to comment for this story.

    Finding Maine’s Illegal Grow Sites — and Their Owners

    A review of real estate records, physical site inspections, and interviews with hundreds of Mainers has identified more than 100 Chinese-owned properties in Maine — all purchased by single men and women from out-of-state, primarily Brooklyn and Staten Island, over the past three years.

    The buyers often pay cash, but dozens of the properties carry mortgages from just a few finance companies.
    The sites are almost all in rural Maine and show evidence of active or recently active marijuana grow operations, including grow supplies and the obvious smell of marijuana even at a considerable distance.

    Almost all of the sites have had extensive modifications to houses, garages, and outbuildings to support marijuana growing, including the installation of 300- or 400-amp commercial grade electricity service, consumer-owned utility poles, and multiple heat pumps.

    Neighbors confirm that the houses frequently smell of marijuana and several times a year, a white van with New York or Massachusetts plates will arrive and depart. Neighbors also reported, in some cases, seeing tractor-trailer trucks delivering grow supplies.

    The properties the Maine Wire has identified account for thousands of acres of land in rural Maine and tens of millions of dollars worth of real estate. Marijuana industry experts said a standard 2,500 square foot house in Maine could, if properly renovated into a marijuana grow, generate $1 million to $3 million in marijuana per year.

    Although most of the properties are owned under the names of Chinese men and women from New York or Massachusetts, some of them are owned through LLCs.

    The Maine Wire was not able to independently confirm the immigration or citizenship status of the owners of these properties; however, nothing in U.S. or Maine law would prevent a Chinese national from purchasing a property in Maine, even if they were in the country illegally.

    The Maine Wire has also discovered records tying multiple sites together, including car registrations, municipal waste permits, real estate records, and other public records, which, taken together, support the determination that the grow sites are connected and centrally controlled under an umbrella organization.

    At a grow site in Fairfield, for example, there was a Toyota Corolla registered to the owner of a separate site in Garland. That same vehicle was later observed at the site in Garland.

    At a different Fairfield site, there was a truck with Mass. plates that had a dump permit sticker for Dexter (40 miles East) and a dump sticker for Wilton (40 miles West).

    Law enforcement sources confirmed that they are aware of the existence of multiple sites in both Dexter and Wilton.

    Several of the properties that show obvious signs of active or recently active marijuana growing operations have been purchased by Chinese individuals from New York or Massachusetts only to be resold shortly after to other Chinese individuals from New York or Brooklyn.

    Indoor Marijuana Cultivation 101

    Before we get to the sites the Maine Wire identified, it will be helpful to go over some basics of growing marijuana indoors.

    The chief necessity is abundant electricity. That electricity is used to power the grow lights, which consume substantially more energy than your average LED lighting.

    But because those lights also generate a tremendous amount of heat, the grow rooms require cooling and ventilation equipment.

    The ideal temperature for growing marijuana is 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Without significant air conditioning, the lighting would make a grow room too hot.

    The primary way the sites in Maine cool their grow rooms and control humidity is through heat pumps.
    The combined electricity consumption of the lighting and the heat pumps requires robust upgrades to electrical infrastructure at a typical residential property.

    Most of the sites identified by the Maine Wire show evidence of recent electrical upgrades and the addition of multiple heat pumps.

    Linesmen from Central Maine Power and local electricians both shared, on the condition of anonymity, stories about being asked to upgrade residential buildings with the power capacity typically only needed by energy-intensive businesses.

    “Usually it’s like a 10 KVA transformer that they overload out of a, like a regular house. You won’t even be able to tell,” said a CMP Linesman. “And so we gotta go upgrade and usually one person will come out and stare at us the whole time. They usually don’t know any English”

    One electrician in central Maine was asked to install commercial grade service to a mobile home — a job he refused because he found the customers, who did not speak English, too sketchy.

    “I met with them one time a couple years back but didn’t like what I was seeing,” the electrician said.

    The two most common electrical upgrades encountered at these sites are new 300- or 400-amp breaker boxes and consumer-owned utility poles.

    Without such upgrades, running a grow operation on common residential wiring risks starting a fire, as has happened at sites in Canaan, Winterport, and Vassalboro.

    In addition to electricity, the indoor grow rooms need to seal out ambient light, which is why all of the windows are boarded up at these locations.

    Ambient light during a dark-cycle can cause young marijuana plants to turn into hermaphrodites, which decreases the potency of the flower.

    Here are some more in-depth looks at sites the Maine Wire has identified based on real estate records, photographs provided by sources, public records, and interviews with law enforcement and residents of the towns.
    629 Norridgewock Road, Fairfield

    This 4-bed, 2-bath house was purchased by 32-year-old Juan Lin on July 30, 2021, according to Somerset Registry of Deeds records.

    The windows are obscured, not with curtains or blinds, but with a type of foil foam board used to keep out ambient light.

    On the back of the house, there are three active heat pumps, two on the main house and one on the semi-detached garage.

    The home also boasts an electrical entrance that far exceeds the standard residential electrical equipment.

    In 2021, prior to Lin’s purchase, the home did not have any heat pumps or commercial grade electricity.

    A master electrician licensed to work in Maine said the electrical equipment on the side of the home appeared to be a 400-amp service with two 200-amp manual disconnects — an expensive arrangement that is rare to install on a residential property.

    In layman’s terms, the house is consuming far more energy than your average Maine home.

    It also reeks of pot, according to neighbors.

    Inside the home, photos show clear evidence of a marijuana growing operation. (Note: these were provided by a source who asked to remain anonymous.)

    Legal Maine cultivators consulted by the Maine Wire assessed that this is what a standard grow operation looks like, noting the chemical containers, the newly installed benching on either side of the room, and and wiring.

    This picture shows the same room prior to 2021.

    At the time the more recent photos were taken, there were two vehicles on the property. A charcoal gray truck with Massachusetts license plates and a large white cargo van, also with Mass. plates.

    According to public records, the only other address associated with Lin is in Quincy, Mass., where he appears to live with several family members.

    Though Lin owns the property, there is no evidence that he has himself participated in the cultivation or trafficking of marijuana.

    The Maine Wire has identified more than 100 similar sites in Maine that all fit many elements of the same pattern:

    1) purchased in the past three years by a single Chinese men or women from New York or Massachusetts;

    2) strong odor of marijuana even from a distance of 100s of feet;

    3) rubbish from commercial grow products;

    4) massive upgrades to the electrical capacity of the property;

    5) property has large garage, outbuilding, or barn;

    6) all windows are completely blacked out; 7) multiple security cameras; and multiple heat pumps running constantly.

    4 Smith Road & 43 Cape Cod Hill Road, New Sharon

    In New Sharon (population: 1,500), the Maine Wire identified two obvious marijuana grows purchased within the last three years.

    A property at 4 Smith Road was purchased in July 2021 by Wen Bin Zhao, 34, of Brooklyn.

    The house bears the tell-tale signs: all the windows boarded up, electrical upgrades, and, most tellingly, an overpowering odor of marijuana that could be easily detected from hundreds of feet away.

    Similarly, this massive property at 43 Cape Cod Hill Road was purchased in June 2021 by Muhua Chen, 38, of Staten Island, N.Y.

    During a visit in October, windows visible from the public road and the neighbors driveway appeared completely boarded up and the odor of marijuana was powerful (though that could have been because the site is about 200 yards from 5 Smith Road).

    Although Chen and Zhao’s names appear on the deeds of these properties, there is no evidence that they have themselves cultivated or trafficked illicit marijuana.

    Photo from Zillow prior to Chen’s purchase.Here’s the house now:

    Madison: Golf Course Road and Lakewood Road

    Madison is host to at least three active indoor marijuana growing operations. The operations are at 383 Lakewood Road, 288 Golf Course Road, and 21 Golf Course Road.

    When the Maine Wire visited these three properties attempting to interview the occupants, we observed the tell-tale signs of marijuana grows — blacked out windows, electrical upgrades, multiple heatpumps, and the obvious odor of marijuana.

    The 21 Golf Course Road is owned by Changju Wu and was previously owned by Joe Hao Liang, who also owns 383 Lakewood Road.

    The house at 288 Golf Course Road was owned by Yanyi Wu, 30.

    Wu, who previously lived in Brooklyn, purchased the property in Oct. 2020 and sold it this September to Jamie Yajing Chen, also previously from Brooklyn.

    Wu is also the owner of a house in Embden. Although Wu obtained financing for the Embden location, the two Madison properties were purchased in cash.

    Like the Fairfield location, the property at 383 Lakewood Rd. has undergone significant renovations since it was purchased.

    Photos available on Zillow from before Wu acquired the property show it had no heat pumps installed on the front of the building.

    While attempting to contact Wu at the house for an interview, the Maine Wire observed three heat pumps on the front of the building and one on the back. Comparing the before and after pictures also shows that the garage has had new power service installed within the past three years.

    When the Maine Wire visited, every window was blacked out with sheet rock and blankets, and the smell of marijuana was apparent.

    A roughly five minute drive from the Lakewood Road properties brings you to Golf Course Road.

    At 288 Golf Course Road, the house smelled strongly marijuana when the Maine Wire attempted to contact the owner.

    A vent on the side of the garage was pumping hot air that smelled strongly of marijuana.

    Although a woman came out of the house to talk, conducting an interview was impossible because she only spoke Mandarin.

    The occupant, a middle-aged Chinese woman, called an unidentified person who attempted to translate and conveyed that they were uninterested in talking.

    The windows on the house and the garage were all boarded up with either foam insulation or sheetrock, and the home had commercial grade electrical service. The home also had multiple security cameras.

    Like with other properties, before and after pictures show significant changes to the electrical equipment on the house following its purchase.

    On the same road is another site that a neighbor described as a Chinese-owned marijuana growing operation.
    The neighbor, who asked not to be named, said it was common knowledge on the road that the house was being used to grow marijuana. The aroma left little reason to doubt his opinion.

    Comparing older pictures of the property to how it appears now shows significant modifications to the five car garage, including window covers to exclude ambient light.

    169 Baker Road, Winterport

    Fires are not uncommon at these sites.

    This house in Winterport was purchased in August 2021 by Wanzhen Huang, 50, of Brooklyn, N.Y. The purchase price was $182,000, and Zillow currently estimates it at $348,900, but Zillow might not know about the unrepaired fire damage. This is how the home looks now.

    A neighbor took this picture shortly after the Winterport house caught fire.

    When the Maine Wire visited the home seeking an interview with the occupants, it appeared abandoned.

    346 Ohio Hill Road Rt 23, Fairfield

    This dilapidated Ohio Hill Road house was purchased by Yifeng Yu, 38, of El Monte, Calif., in February of 2020.

    Images provided to the Maine Wire by a source who asked to remain anonymous show marijuana growing equipment littering the property, including plant pots, fertilizer containers, and soil supplements.

    195 West Road, Chesterville

    In Chesterville, the Maine Wire observed the strong odor of marijuana at this property.

    A source, who asked to remain anonymous, said CBP has visited this property and even used a hidden camera to photograph it over a period of months.

    A CBP agent declined to comment when asked about this property.

    Harming Legal Growers

    Legal marijuana cultivators told the Maine Wire that licensed operators have long believed that at least some weed grown illegally at sites controlled by Chinese organized crime is making into Maine’s legal marijuana market.

    The influx of cheap Chinese weed — which cannabis aficionados have dubbed “Triad Weed” — is, they believe, depressing prices.

    “[Marijuana prices] went from $2,800 during COVID and right before COVID,” said one medicinal grower. “Now, for a good pound of flower, it’s like $1,250. So your profit on that after your CMP bill, your profit on that is like, you know, $600.”

    “All these little guys and all these caregivers that are doing the right thing are getting shut out and shutting down,” they said.

    The plummeting price for legal cannabis in Maine coincides well with when Chinese buyers began scooping up rural Maine properties and converting them into grow operations.

    How Much Money Are These Sites Making?

    First off: How much marijuana could each site produce?

    According to industry experts the Maine Wire consulted, the amount of marijuana produced at a given spot would depend on the skill of the growers, the resources at their disposal, and how much of the home and garage has been dedicated to grow rooms.

    Assuming maximum efficiency, a 2,500 square-foot house could accommodate 50 grow lights, which would produce 100 pounds of processed marijuana per harvest. Such an operation could expect four to twelve harvests per year, or 400 to 1,200 pounds of marijuana flower.

    How much is that in U.S. dollars? That depends on where the flower is ultimately sold. If the flower is sold into Maine’s barely regulated medicinal market, it’s almost certainly being sold for less than $800 per pound.

    However, if the flower is being trafficked back to NYC, the black market price is closer to $3,000 per pound.
    Although there are a considerable range of factors, multiple individuals told the Maine Wire that it was realistic to conclude that an operation of this type could fetch $1.2M to $3.6M, not including the considerable costs of electricity, fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and, in some cases, mortgage payments.

    This will be the first in a series of stories from the Maine Wire concerning Chinese organized crime in Maine.

    Future articles in this series will focus on the financial arrangements that have allowed Chinese buyers to purchase so much real estate in Maine, the political response to this problem from Augusta, how the Office of Cannabis Policy understands the problem, and what steps law enforcement is taking.
    Edward Tomic and Graham Pollard contributed to this report.

    Last edited by Beezer; 01-24-2024 at 01:29 PM.


  2. #2
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    Apr 2016
    These criminal parasites are buying our homes, land, real estate and destroying our communities.

    And our damn government KNOWS about it and is doing nothing!

    Marijuana takes a lot of water to grow.

    They are stealing electricity and the depleting the water sources.

    These homes are for families, not for growing weed.

    Send in swat teams, shut them down, confiscate the property, and deport them if here illegally.


  3. #3
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    Maine Sheriff Raids 8th Illegal Chinese-Owned Marijuana Grow in 8 Months


    JANUARY 17, 2024

    UPDATED:JANUARY 24, 2024

    An illegal marijuana grow in China, Maine (Source: Kennebec County Sheriff's Office)

    The Somerset County Sheriff’s Department led a raid on a property in Cornville on Wednesday that led to the discovery of an illegal marijuana growing facility operated two Asian males and an Asian female who spoke little or no English.

    Seventy-five-year-old Huansheng Mai, 63-year-old Yuling Mei, and 68-year-old Yiming Hu were arrested and charged with drug trafficking and cultivation of marijuana, according to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.

    The raid resulted in the seizure of 750 plants from several cultivation rooms with plants at different stages of maturity, along with more than 90 pounds of processed marijuana.

    “We, on a regular basis, receive the complaints from neighbors because the smell of marijuana is distinct. And so then you have to build a case. And that’s what takes some time,” Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster told the Maine Wire.

    The Cornville raid, which took place on as a West Ridge home, is the eighth law enforcement action that has uncovered illicit cannabis growing operations in rural Maine.

    According to the Somerset County Registry of Deeds, Yuling Mei, one of the individuals arrested Wednesday, also owns a nearby residence at 368 West Ridge Road.

    When purchasing that property in 2021, Mei listed a residence in Brooklyn, N.Y.

    Read more of the Maine Wire’s reporting on Triad Weed:

    More Triad Weed Busts:

    According to a memo form the Department of Homeland Security that leaked last year, there are more than 270 such sites operating in rural Maine at the behest of Asian Transnational Criminal Organizations.

    Last year, a task force led by Penobscot Sheriff Troy Morton shutter a massive 3,000-plant grow in Carmel that was operating out of an old chicken barn.

    That bust led to the arrest of four Asian males, one of whom later told law enforcement that “he is going to be dead soon” — a hint that the consequences that might follow from getting caught.

    More recently, two Maine State Police raids in Belgrade, a local police raid in China, and a local police raid in Machias also uncovered illegal Chinese marijuana cultivation operations.



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