PORTLAND, Maine – The high electricity consumption of a home, its cardboard-covered windows and odor of marijuana drew law enforcement’s attention to an illicit grow operation off the beaten path in rural Maine.

The bust of the home with a hidden grow operation and seizure of nearly 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of processed marijuana marked the latest example of what authorities describe as a yearslong trend of foreign nationals to exploit U.S. state laws that have legalized cannabis for recreational or medical use to produce marijuana for the illicit markets in the U.S.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating international criminal organizations that are operating illegal marijuana grows in about 20 states, including Maine, Attorney Garland Merrick Garland told the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, in response to a question raised by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Federal law enforcement officials said there currently are about 100 illicit grow operations in Maine, like the one in Passadumkeag, about 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) north of Bangor, and about 40 search warrants have been issued since June.

In Passadumkeag, Xisen Guo, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in China, has been accused of transforming the house into a high-tech, illicit grow operation, according to court documents unsealed this week.

He was ordered held without bail Friday on federal drug charges, making him the first person to be charged federally in such a case in Maine….

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