ST. ALBANS — The latest illegal marijuana growing operation to be raided by authorities was just a short distance away from a local day care, police said.

A Homeland Security Investigations agent and Somerset County Sheriff’s Deputy are pictured inside an illegal marijuana grow in St. Albans on May 30. Photo courtesy of Somerset County Sheriff’s Office

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office found more than 200 mature cannabis plants and trimmings from roughly 1,500 more plants when they raided a property on Denbow Road at around 9:45 a.m. on Thursday, according to Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster. The residence was about 100 yards away from a nearby child care center, according to Lancaster.

Authorities also found a black mold infestation as well as hazardous electrical wiring at the site. The two-story home had been almost entirely hollowed out to make way for thousands of plants and industrial-grade heating and lighting equipment, much like the dozens of similar operations busted across rural Maine in recent months.

“It’s cookie-cutter,” Lancaster said. “The majority of the homes that we have executed these illegal drug raids on have sparse living conditions and many hazards. The homes have been almost entirely turned into growing locations.”

Within many of the other residences housing illegal growing operations, authorities have found elaborate automated growing systems, exorbitantly high electricity usage and small areas where laborers live in squalor while tending the crop, often without food or pay.

Other growing sites that have installed similar heating and lighting systems have done so legally, being granted easements to modify electrical equipment by Central Maine Power Co. Many of the sites use over 5,000% more electricity in a single month than the average Maine household does in an entire year.


Many residences housing illegal growing sites are made uninhabitable by the operations, Lancaster said, due to the potent chemical fertilizers, dangerous electrical modifications and reconfigured interiors found within the homes.

The property in St. Albans marks the 18th illegal marijuana grow busted since January in Somerset County. The residence was used to process marijuana for sale after it was harvested, according to Lancaster, though he declined to provide specifics.

No one was inside the residence when the Sheriffs Office conducted the search warrant, though Lancaster said “criminal charges will be forthcoming against those persons responsible.”

The hundreds of suspected growing operations across rural Maine may be linked to Chinese transnational criminal groups, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The people working at the growing operations appear to be doing so willingly, and there is no evidence of human trafficking, according to U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine Darcie N. McElwee.

The Somerset County District Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office aided the investigation, while Thursday’s raid was conducted in cooperation with Homeland Security Investigations, the Maine Office of Cannabis Policy and Waterville Police Department.

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