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Bill to crack down on illegal marijuana grow operations dies at State House

AUGUSTA (WGME) -- A way to go after illegal marijuana grows in Maine is no longer on the table at the State House.

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The bill is dead after a motion in the Senate Wednesday afternoon.

It was a pretty big proposal supported largely by Republican lawmakers, but some people denounced the bill as racist and unconstitutional.

"These are not one-off illicit grows," Rep. John Andrews (R-South Paris) said.

Andrews calls marijuana busts happening across Maine a "vast network of criminal conspiracies."

"That need RICO laws to round up the gangsters at the top," Andrews said.

His bill, LD 2204, would of established racketeering as a crime at a state level for these kinds of operations.

But it also had more controversial ideas.

"I'm concerned because this bill is discriminatory," Rep. Suzanne Salisbury (D-Westbrook) said.

Under the bill, citizens from China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea or Russia would not have been able to buy real estate in Maine without becoming permanent residents.

"Which is really xenophobic, and it's not tied to their conduct, just what countries they come from," ACLU of Maine Policy Director Meagan Sway said.

Andrews says there are similar laws in other parts of the country.

"And again, it's not me saying these are adversarial nations, it's the federal government," Andrews said.

"It's been found unconstitutional in other states. The ACLU of Florida sued about a very similar law and won," Sway said.

The bill also called for utilities to report certain power use changes to police.

"Illegal marijuana grows in Maine are a problem. They are being addressed. This bill is not the way to further investigate those," Salisbury said.

Ultimately, the House vote Tuesday essentially decided the proposal shouldn't move forward.

"That we could have addressed yesterday on the state level, but unfortunately, House Democrats again sided with the Chinese communists over Maine people," Andrews said.

A handful of Republicans also spoke and voted against it.

"Is it OK to ask utilities to start spying on U.S. citizens?" Rep. Larry Dunphy (R-Embden) said.

"I cannot support a bill that will increase the surveillance state in Maine," Rep. Laurel Libby (R-Auburn) said.

Utilities are already openly discussing ways to share information with law enforcement to crack down on these grows.


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