A bipartisan group of 50 US lawmakers have requested that Attorney General Merrick Garland provide information on illegal marijuana grow operations in the US that are linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Led by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), Jared Golden (D-ME), David Valadao (R-CA), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Sen. Angus King (I-ME), the lawmakers penned a Friday letter to Garland expressing their concerns.
"Chinese nationals—including those with potential ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—are reportedly operating thousands of illicit marijuana farms across the country," they wrote. "The thousands of illicit Chinese marijuana growing operations pose a direct threat to public safety, human rights, national security, and the addiction crisis gripping our nation."
According to the lawmakers, Chinese grow operations have been identified in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington.
"In some cases, the grow operators were also engaged in human trafficking, forced labor, drug trafficking, and violent crime," the letter continues. "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 cites a 2023 DHS memo which said that 270 suspected China-linked illegal grow operations in Maine alone were generating more than $4.3 billion in revenue.
In Oklahoma, over 2,000 marijuana farmers "are linked to China," according to the letter. "Investigators in Oklahoma discovered illicit marijuana growers engaged in human trafficking, sex trafficking, ketamine trafficking, illegal gambling, and international money laundering."
"Experts believe there is substantial evidence implicating the CCP in directly supporting illicit marijuana grow operations across the United States," the lawmakers wrote. "Whether located in retrofitted residential homes or on farmland, state regulatory and law enforcement entities appear unable to address these potentially CCP supported grow operations despite their significant threat to local communities across the country."
As the Epoch Times notes further, in September last year, a group of Chinese immigrants filed a lawsuit alleging that they were lured to northern New Mexico under false pretenses and then forced to work 14 hours a day on an illegal marijuana farm.
“Allowing illicit marijuana farms tied to the CCP is a continued threat to national security, public safety, and human rights,” the lawmakers concluded.
At the end of the letter, the lawmakers wanted Mr. Garland to answer multiple questions before Feb 23, including the number of CCP-affiliated marijuana farms in the United States, and whether state legalization of marijuana has “ affected the proliferation of CCP-affiliated marijuana farms.”
“How many CCP-affiliated marijuana farms have obtained state-issued licenses to grow marijuana, either directly or through a shell company?” the lawmakers asked in the letter.
On Jan. 18, a federal grand jury convicted two Chinese nationals—Jeff Weng of Brooklyn, New York, and Chinese national Tong Lin—of a drug trafficking conspiracy involving about 28 tons of black-market marijuana shipped from Oklahoma City.
According to the Justice Department, Mr. Weng managed a marijuana-growing operation in Wetumka, Oklahoma, from December 2022 to May 2023. The pair drove delivery vans, including one disguised as an Amazon van, to transport marijuana from Wetumka to a stash house in Oklahoma City. From there, they transported a total of over 56,000 pounds of marijuana to the East Coast via semi-truck trailer.
Local law enforcement discovered 19,661 marijuana plants, more than $100,000 of vacuum-sealed cash, and a firearm during a raid of Mr. Weng’s facility in May 2023.
Last month, Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), and Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas), sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram, requesting a briefing over Chinese-operated marijuana farms across the country.
“Many of these illicit grow operations work in conjunction with transnational criminal organizations,” they wrote. “Illicit marijuana farms provide unregulated access for consumers to Schedule 1 substances and help provide additional revenue sources to transnational criminal organizations.”