Pubdate: Thu, 31 May 2018
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2018 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Gabby Ferreira


In mid-May, authorities discovered an acre of poppy fields in Monterey

By the end of the month, they carried out the largest known opium
poppy bust in California history, according to the Monterey County
Sheriff's Office.

"We know it's the biggest grow in California history and we believe it
could be the biggest in the nation," sheriff's spokesman Cmdr. John
Thornburg told the Monterey County Herald.

In a Facebook post, the agency announced that, in addition to the acre
found at Moss Landing, they found seven more fields of the flowers in
a span of three days. Five of the fields were in Royal Oaks and two
were in Aromas.

The sheriff's office was helped during this operation by the
California National Guard, according to the agency.

Officials destroyed 34,386 pounds, or 17 tons, of mature opium
poppies, the sheriff's office said, and officials found more than 500
pounds of opium poppy pods at one of the locations.

In total, about 160,000 opium poppy plants were destroyed and the
total land area where all these plants were growing was 5.6 acres, the
sheriff's office said. The poppies can be used to make opioids,
including heroin.

The poppy grows were all on private property, according to the
Monterey County Herald, and officials got search warrants and have
been in contact with the property owners.

KSBW 8 reported that the names of the property owners haven't been
released because no one has been arrested or charged with a crime.

Investigators are also still trying to confirm why the plants were
grown, KSBW 8 reported.

"If they just thought they were pretty plants, if that's true, then
maybe it's just an innocent mistake," Thornburg told the station.

But the sheriff's office did talk to a botanist after the first poppy
field was discovered in Moss Landing -- the first opium poppy bust in
county history -- and were told the plants are not native to
California, the Monterey County Herald reported.

"It's pretty clear from what we've seen that these didn't just
accidentally land somewhere, somebody put them there," he told the

The investigation is ongoing, and details were not immediately
available regarding whether all eight fields were connected to each
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