Raids on pot grow houses finding more Chinese nationals, from Colorado to California | PostIndependent.com

Raids on pot grow houses finding more Chinese nationals, from Colorado to California

Stuart Leavenworth and Brad Branan
The Sacramento Bee
Investigators load marijuana plants onto a Colorado National Guard truck outside a suspected illegal grow operation in north Denver last year. Large numbers of Chinese nationals have been arrested recently in raids on marijuana grow houses in California, Colorado and other states.
P. Solomon Banda / AP Photo

Police are arresting large numbers of Chinese nationals in raids on illegal marijuana operations in California, Colorado and other states, raising questions about who is financing these grow houses and recruiting the immigrants to tend them.

In one recent indictment obtained by McClatchy, money from a southern China bank account was transferred to California to pay for down payments on homes that later become grow houses, suggesting that some investors in China are putting money into the illicit U.S. marijuana market.

In and around Sacramento, police have arrested numerous Chinese suspects in recent raids on indoor pot farms. But raids have also taken place in more far-flung locations, such as Garfield County in Colorado’s northwest corner.

Last year, Garfield Sheriff Lou Vallario and his deputies descended on an illegal marijuana farm, arresting 14 suspects. To Vallario’s surprise, all 14 were Chinese nationals.

Vallario and other law enforcement officials are quick to note that people from many backgrounds — U.S. citizens, Mexicans, Russians — are involved in the illegal marijuana trade.

“We’ve had nationals from all over coming to this part of Colorado,” he said. “There are grow houses popping up in every neighborhood.”