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Chairmen Green, Pfluger, Higgins Request DHS, DEA Briefing Amid Rapid Expansion of Illicit Chinese-Operated Marijuana Farms

January 19, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, MD (R-TN), Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence Chairman August Pfluger (R-TX), and Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement Chairman Clay Higgins (R-LA) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram, requesting a briefing on the growing national security threat posed by illicit Chinese-operated marijuana farms uncovered across the United States. These farms are increasingly associated with transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) engaging in forced labor and other black-market practices, and many are enriching investors from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on U.S. soil.


Read more via Leif Le Mahieu for the Daily Wire.

In the letter, the Chairmen state, “Illicit Chinese-operated marijuana farms have been found across the country and pose significant risks to our nation’s security. First, illicit marijuana farms provide unregulated access for consumers to Schedule 1 substances and help provide additional revenue sources to transnational criminal organizations. Many of these operations have also been found to have labor conditions that are emblematic of human trafficking and forced labor practices. In addition, Chinese investors have financed some of these illegal operations, and these investments include cash payment for large swaths of land to conduct these operations. Members of Congress have routinely raised their concerns with real estate purchases made by entities domiciled in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Lastly, illegal grow operations have been directly linked to spikes in violent crime in local communities.”
The Chairmen conclude, “To assist the Committee’s examination of illicit PRC activity in the U.S. homeland, we request that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) provide Committee staff with a briefing as soon as possible, but no later than January 25, 2024. This briefing should include, but not be limited to, information about the actions your agencies are conducting to monitor, investigate, and dismantle illicit Chinese-operated marijuana farms, as well as information about the links these illegal farms have to transnational criminal organizations and foreign entities.”
Read the full letter here.
In August 2023, a leaked U.S. Border Patrol memo revealed DHS had identified over 270 Chinese-backed illegal marijuana operations in Maine alone, producing up to $4.3 billion in possible illicit revenue. In Oklahoma, the Bureau of Narcotics claims 80 percent of the illicit marijuana farms seized in the state had ties to China. In a hearing last week, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond testified on the growing trend, saying, “Law enforcement comes into contact daily with foreign nationals who have entered our country illegally or who remain illegally, or both. This is all too common in Oklahoma’s illegal grow operations […] Organized criminals have overtaken the industry. Our law enforcement partners report that the foreign nationals most often involved in these illegal enterprises come from China or Mexico.”
Homeland Republicans are also investigating other security threats concerning the PRC and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) malign influence on U.S. soil. In April, Chairmen Green and Pfluger sent a letter to Secretary Mayorkas and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray, requesting information on the clandestine CCP ‘police stations’ uncovered in New York City and reportedly elsewhere in the country, which suppress Chinese dissidents living in the U.S., conduct surveillance, and spread CCP propaganda. 
The Committee is also investigating the link between TCOs south of the border and individuals from the PRC. As part of the Committee’s five-phase investigation into the border crisis, the Phase Two interim report on cartel control of the border outlined the increasing connection between cartels in Mexico with Chinese nationals, citing evidence that cartels charge far more to smuggle Chinese nationals than other individuals—even up to $60,000. While, according to Border Patrol, their reason for crossing is often due to the PRC’s repressive regime, Chairman Green received confirmation from authorities that individuals with ties to the CCP and the People’s Liberation Army have been intercepted crossing the border.