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U.S. Law Enforcement Cracks Down on China-Linked Marijuana Farms


Law enforcement agencies in the United States revealed Tuesday that wealthy Chinese investors, along with suspected officials from the Communist Party, have been working together with Asian criminal groups to control the illicit marijuana market in the U.S., leading to significant financial gains.

Officials say a portion of the funds can be traced back to China and into American real estate, creating continuous cash flow for the future. In Los Angeles last Friday, the LA County Sheriff's Department conducted raids on three marijuana grow warehouses believed to be operated and controlled by individuals of Chinese origin.

"We've seen quite an influence or increase in the amount of Chinese, Asian-owned, Asian-operated marijuana cultivation sites in LA County since about 2021," an undercover narcotics detective leading Friday's operation told reporters. "Several million dollars in profits of what's here today, and the criminal penalties are very minor," the official added.

Law enforcement officials said large rotary cutting saws were necessary to breach the sturdy steel doors guarding each warehouse. Upon entering the initial site, the team discovered around 4,000 marijuana plants thriving under intense lighting. These plants, spanning various stages of growth and height within each chamber, facilitated multiple harvests throughout the year. With a Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of 27%, the cannabis found was exceptionally potent, promising high value, particularly in major East Coast urban areas.

The undercover detective informed journalists regarding the discovery of a marijuana cultivation facility situated discreetly behind a pottery store along a bustling street in El Monte, a Los Angeles suburb. They detailed that the operation contained "a little over 4,000 marijuana plants."

According to law enforcement's assessment, the yield from this amount of plants could fetch "somewhere around $2 million to $3 million at wholesale value" in today's market.

Authorities from the California Bureau of Cannabis Control have reported that extensive Chinese-run cultivation operations have been prevalent across the state. These operations have been observed in various locations, ranging from suburban areas in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties to residences in the Bay Area, extending up to the renowned Emerald Triangle near the Oregon border, which serves as a critical center for cannabis production in the state.

Speaking to Fox News, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue said that law enforcement has seen a "tremendous explosion of Chinese folks coming in and buying land and then growing illegal marijuana."

"This scale that we're talking, I mean, we're talking thousands of different illegal grows within our community, and it's just perpetuated a lot of violence," he added.

Aerial images have revealed a significant increase in marijuana cultivation in Siskiyou County since 2017, with approximately 8,000 grow houses scattered across the rural terrain. On average, each cultivation site covers around a dozen acres and features four to five plastic-covered "hoop houses," each of which holds several hundred marijuana plants.

LaRue told Fox News that because such drug-related actions are profitable, "there's really hardly any consequences," and the growth "just continues."

"In some instances, the money is going directly back to China. As for the workers, essentially, they're trafficking in labor to do the cultivation. 75% percent or more are undocumented individuals that we're running into, and in the last few years, those numbers have increased dramatically," he added.

A federal official who wished to remain anonymous informed Fox News that Chinese operations are intricate, multi-layered, and difficult to penetrate. Much of the labor involved is trafficked, which hinders efforts to obtain good information. The individuals listed on the property deeds are often insignificant, making prosecution challenging. The official added that cases involving the cultivation of marijuana without a license result in misdemeanors and a $500 fine. Subsequently, the property owners quickly sell the house and relocate.

Additionally, Oklahoma's Bureau of Narcotics has determined that there are approximately 2,000 marijuana farms linked to China. Recently, the bureau took action by shutting down a large-scale cultivation operation. They confiscated 82,979 plants and 1,955 pounds of processed marijuana during the raid, estimating its street value at $300 million. Additionally, agents detained multiple Asian warehouse employees, and a 36-year-old Chinese woman was arrested for her suspected role in the operation.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has discovered 270 marijuana grow operations in Maine with ties to China. In 2023, the agency initiated a nationwide intelligence-gathering effort to evaluate Chinese participation. They requested local law enforcement to notify them if they come across any Asian or Chinese transnational criminal groups during their investigations.

Recently, a group of 50 members of Congress requested a briefing from the Justice Department regarding illegal marijuana farms associated with Chinese nationals. They referenced the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in their request.

California Republican representative Jay Obernolte told Fox News that law enforcement officials understand the money is "being funneled back to China." The legislator highlighted that the Chinese were utilizing this situation both for financial gain and to disrupt life in the US. "The wide-open southern border is catalyzing this problem because the cartels are trafficking people across the border, and they're establishing these camps and they lock them in. It's a human catastrophe for everybody," Obernolte said.

Olbernolte also mentioned to Fox News how his district has found such activity tied to the CCP, prompting his office to ask the Department of Justice (DOJ) to be transparency and give a briefing to lawmakers on "what it is doing and what can be done to try and rectify this problem."

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