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Senator Collins Questions Secretary of State on China’s Involvement in Illegal Marijuana Grow Operations in Maine

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Washington, D.C. – At a hearing to review the Fiscal Year 2025 budget request for the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee, questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Government of China’s potential involvement in the illegal marijuana grow operations in Maine and elsewhere.

Below is the full transcript of their exchange.

Sen. Collins said:

Illegal marijuana grows in Maine and elsewhere pose a significant national security and public health risk. 

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) 2024 assessment, there's been a notable uptick in the number of illicit marijuana cultivation sites linked to Chinese and other Asian organized crime groups.  That includes my State of Maine, where between 100 and 200 sites have been identified.

Mr. Secretary, are these Chinese criminal syndicates operating these illegal marijuana grows in our country with the knowledge and consent of the government of China?

Sec. Blinken replied:

Senator, first of all, let me defer to DEA on this because they have the expertise about what's going on in the United States. 

But, I would welcome working with you on this.  Dealing with countering narcotics is a big part of our engagement with China.  We're, of course very focused on synthetic opioids, fentanyl.  But any drug that poses a problem and is threatening our communities is something that we're deeply concerned with.  So I'd welcome following up with you on this.


Senator Collins has long led efforts to crack down on the illicit Chinese marijuana growing operations in Maine.  In response to concerns raised by constituents in 2022, Senator Collins sent a letter to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Director requesting state authorities to look into the matter.  Since then, Senator Collins and the Maine Delegation sent letters to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in August 2023 and January 2024.  In the fall of 2023, she received a briefing from the U.S. DEA Administrator on the agency’s efforts.  Earlier this year, Senator Collins joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter sent to Attorney General Garland requesting a briefing on the Department of Justice’s efforts to address the illegal growing operations.  At the annual worldwide threats open hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in March, Senator Collins questioned FBI Director Christopher Wray on the FBI’s efforts to support state, local, and county officials in combating this criminal activity.  In April, she questioned Attorney General Garland at an Appropriations hearing on what federal law enforcement is doing to help shut down illegal marijuana growing operations in Maine and support the efforts of state, county, and local law enforcement.