Chinese Criminal Organizations Penetrate US Drug Market

Many Americans are unaware that Chinese “Triad” gang members have established a significant presence in the United States, particularly in the illegal marijuana trade, prompting broader security concerns for US authorities.

The increasing influence of the Chinese Mafia, known as the “Triad,” was highlighted by an incident in November 2022 at a cannabis farm in Oklahoma—a surprising location for an outbreak of oriental gang violence.

In this incident, Chen Wu, armed and seeking repayment of a $300,000 debt, fatally shot He Qiang Chen and three others. Both individuals, hailing from Fujian, a province notorious for organized crime, were part of a broader influx of Chinese gangsters capitalizing on America’s billion-dollar marijuana industry.

Chinese criminal syndicates have largely monopolized the illicit marijuana trade in the country, resulting in heightened violence, trafficking, and various forms of fraud spanning states from California to Maine.

According to Donnie Anderson, an official with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, “Chinese organized crime has seized control of the marijuana trade in Oklahoma and across the United States.” These illicit activities exploit numerous Chinese immigrants, subjecting them to exploitative labor conditions and prostitution under the pretense of involvement in marijuana cultivation.

Loosely organized yet highly disciplined criminal networks, reportedly overseen from New York by entrenched southern Chinese mafias known as “triads,” have capitalized on lenient marijuana cultivation laws, particularly in states like Oklahoma, to establish a significant illegal marijuana trade spanning state borders. The proliferation of illicit cultivation has transformed Oklahoma into a major hub for black-market marijuana, with estimates pegging the annual value of illegal produce between $18 billion and $44 billion.

Despite the vast scale of these operations, the federal response has been limited, marked by a shift in enforcement priorities and a dearth of resources allocated to combatting Chinese organized crime. This has allowed these criminal networks not only to dominate the illegal marijuana market but also to bolster their global money laundering endeavors for other criminal enterprises, including those involved in narcotics such as fentanyl.

The infiltration of the cannabis market by Chinese organized crime not only highlights the difficulties confronting U.S. law enforcement but also underscores the potential national security risks posed by these groups’ purported connections to the Chinese government. It is believed that this relationship grants the mafias protection in return for various services, such as facilitating the transfer of money abroad for the Communist Party elite and engaging in espionage within immigrant communities.