Illicit Cannabis Farm Raids Reveal Human Trafficking Victims

NBC News reported that as more states allow marijuana, law enforcement officials have said they’re witnessing an increase of black market sellers dealing with suspected victims of human trafficking that are being used to plant and trim marijuana that’s being sold in dispensaries that are legal.

Jin, a trafficked cannabis farm worker, uses a cellphone in his motel room.

However, authorities and advocates warn that aiding victims of trafficking can be difficult because many of them don’t acknowledge being trafficked, and many do not want to cooperate with police agencies to hunt down dealers and smugglers.

Nine suspected victims were detained in the early hours of a raid in the month of May in the Mojave Desert in California. The cannabis farmers, all Chinese nationals, who came across the country from New York, attempted to escape as law enforcement officials conducted a search warrant at the farm’s secluded location.

Through the use of a Mandarin translator, one woman claimed she found the job on a Chinese website. The listings that were reviewed on NBC News did not mention specific salary amounts, while others indicated that they could be negotiated in person.

“I have no money. What hope do I have?” said a worker identified as Jin, who wanted to be identified only with his first name.

All of the workers arrested claimed they’d worked in restaurants prior to their trip west. Many claimed they were looking forward to seeing their relatives back on the East Coast. The workers were not compensated for their work and lived in cramped and uncomfortable trailers close to the illicit grow operations.

A worker whose name is Fang and who asked to be identified solely by her initials claimed that she had left her son, who was 8 years old, within New York.

“It’s very dirty, it’s very messy,” she explained about the trailer where she was sleeping.

After being asked if she’d been given the full facts about the type of job she would be completing, Fang denied any knowledge.

Fang,  Jin, and the other workers were also charged with misdemeanors. But they were later released, as per officials from San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. They were taking care of 25 greenhouses, in which law enforcement officials reported that they seized around 1,000 pounds of processed cannabis. The plant matter is likely to earn around eight million dollars in revenue each quarter, the officials claimed.

None of the workers claimed they had been involved in trafficking; however, police officials said they believed these individuals were trafficked.

“It’s common for them to not give up any information on their trafficker, to tell us that they feel safe, because, ultimately, we believe they’re in fear of their own safety if they say anything other than that to us,” explained Sgt. James Roy of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.


Louis Levey is the Content Success Manager and Founder at No Strings Content. He's passionate about helping cannabis businesses use content to attract, educate, and convert audiences. His hometown is Boca Raton, Florida, but he currently lives and works remotely in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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