CORINNA (BDN) — Thousands of marijuana plants were seized Friday morning during a raid of an illegal grow operation in Corinna.

Deputies raided the Corinna property after receiving complaints from neighbors who reported being pressured to sell their properties, smelling chemicals, seeing material buried at the property and out-of-state vehicle traffic at all hours, according to the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office.

Inside the home, deputies found approximately 3,770 marijuana plants, exposed high voltage wires throughout the interior and “inhumane” living conditions, the sheriff’s office said.

“These conditions are not a representation of the many legal and safe businesses operating throughout our state,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

That seizure comes on the heels of an ever-rising surge in large illegal marijuana operations all across Maine.

They received greater scrutiny after the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office found an illegal marijuana operation in Carmel, where police seized 3,400 plants and 111 pounds of processed marijuana in late June. Since then, other large illegal marijuana operations have been found in Dexter, Wilton, Machias, Orland and other communities.

Even more illegal marijuana operations have been uncovered in the past few weeks.

Police have raided seven properties in Chelsea, Jefferson and Whitefield since Jan. 10, resulting in six arrests and the seizure of more than 6,066 marijuana plants.

Also on Friday, Piscataquis County sheriff’s deputies seized about 2,000 marijuana plants during a series of four raids in Guilford and Sangerville. A day earlier, Somerset County sheriff’s deputies seized more than 2,000 plants and 10 pounds of harvested marijuana during a raid in Norridgewock.

On Jan. 31, Androscoggin County sheriff’s deputies seized about 2,500 marijuana plants from an operation in Turner after a bystander reported seeing smoke coming from a garage.

In Cornville, sheriff’s deputies seized 750 marijuana plants and 90 pounds of processed marijuana, all worth an estimated $200,000. Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster described the operation as “very-well organized” during a county commissioners meeting on Jan. 17.

In Belgrade, police arrested two people and seized 2,300 marijuana plants on Jan. 2, while in the town of China, three people were arrested and police seized 970 plants and many more seedlings on Dec. 30.

A leaked federal government memo, first obtained by the conservative Daily Caller and published in August, estimates Maine has 270 large-scale illegal marijuana grows connected to organized crime groups in China. The memo’s authors note that the money may be used to further crime in the U.S. or be sent back to China. These operations generate an estimated $4.37 billion in revenue.

Similar operations have been found in California, Oklahoma and Oregon.

Maine’s congressional delegation has twice pressed the U.S. Justice Department to crack down on these illegal marijuana operations, most recently on Jan. 25, 2024.

“We applaud Maine law enforcement for their continued efforts to investigate and shutdown these illegal operations, and we encourage the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other federal partners to provide additional support for these efforts. These illegal growing operations are detrimental to Maine businesses that comply with State laws, and we urge the DOJ to shut them down,” U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden said in their January letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

It’s not yet clear whether the Corinna operation is connected to others uncovered across Maine or to the crime network described in the federal memo.

The Corinna operation remains under investigation.

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