Pubdate: Mon, 07 May 2012
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2012 Athens Newspapers Inc
Author: Wayne Ford


Winder police will await the results of a Georgia Bureau of 
Investigation crime laboratory analysis before they decide whether to 
arrest anyone in connection with the weekend seizure of nearly 900 
suspected opium poppy plants at a home in the Barrow County town, 
police spokesman Chris Cooper said Monday.

"Like any plant, there are a lot of different species, and that's 
something we're looking into - that's why we're doing the chemical 
analysis to make sure we can positively ID this," he said.

Besides an analysis of the chemical compounds, the crime lab also 
will weigh the plants, Cooper said. Possession of opium is a felony, 
but the weight of the plants could determine whether the charge would 
be trafficking, manufacturing or simple possession of the drug, he said.

The flowering plants were discovered Saturday when Officer Dustin 
Kaster was investigating a minor wreck on West Athens Street in which 
one driver fled the scene. Tracing the license tag to an address led 
the officer to a home in an older neighborhood in Northwest Winder - 
what Cooper called the "quiet side of town."

Kaster saw the large flowering garden and, thinking it might be opium 
poppies, did some Internet research at the scene, according to Cooper.

"It was very observant," Cooper said. "He just happened to recognize 
a plant he had seen either in training or in his background."

"Other than the fact it had the distinct bulb and flower, it really 
didn't stand out as far as the way the rest of the property was 
maintained," Cooper said, adding the flowers were not cultivated in 
rows like a garden.

An elderly resident living at the home has a medical condition and 
told police he had been using the drug to self-medicate, Cooper said. 
The drug made at the residence from the plant was being smoked, 
according to Cooper.

Opium poppies produce a seed pod with "a milky tar-like substance and 
that to opium is kind of like what THC is to marijuana," Cooper said.

The people at the home said they had received the original seeds or 
plants from overseas, he said.
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