Officials in Claremont, North Carolina, seized a field of poppy plants from a local farmer on Tuesday with a value estimated at $500 million.
The field was located on the farm of Cody Xiong in the small town of Claremont about 40 miles north of Charlotte. The poppy plants can be used to synthesize opium, and their production is highly illegal. Opioids are currently a major problem in North Carolina.
“This is the second [poppy field] in the nation,” said Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid. 4,000 pounds of opium poppy pods were previously found in Mountain View, California, this February, worth up to $400,000. A husband and wife team were arrested in conjunction with the opium bust, and had been grinding the plants into a fine powder for consumption.
Narcotics investigators came to the Poultry Road house of Xiong looking for some other information on a tip from a confidential source. When Xiong opened the door, he said, “I guess you’re here about the opium.” Investigators obtained a warrant to search Xiong’s property, and found the plants in a field out back.
The poppy plants were planted in rows like corn, and investigators said it did not appear that they were being manufactured into opium on the property.
“The plants are being harvested here, and sent somewhere else where the opium is being produced from the plant,” said Reid.
One individual in a nearby home was charged in relation to the found field, in addition to Xiong, who was charged with manufacture and trafficking by possession.
The plants were being removed from the acre-sized field and loaded into trailers by the sheriff’s department. Samples would be sent to a state lab to confirm that they are in fact opium poppy. The plants would still need to be weighed to determine their exact value.
“This is unbelievable,” said Reid. “We’ve been out here for about an hour pulling plants, and we’ve not made a dent in it yet.”