Ga. police find 900 opium plants behind house

Investigation of minor traffic accident near Athens yields discovery

WINDER, Ga. — Winder police discovered a patch of 900 opium poppy plants while investigating a hit-and-run that occurred in a hardware store parking lot Saturday, according to a report.

“It was a pretty minor parking lot accident. Fortunately for us, the victim in that accident was walking out of the store just as the driver was leaving,” Officer Chris Cooper said.

Witnesses gave police a tag number and vehicle description, which led them to a residence. Officers met with the homeowner, who led them behind the house where a vehicle matching the description of the one involved in the accident was parked, police said.

While behind the house, Officer Dustin Kaster noticed large crop of unusual plants with large pink flowers and bulbs. He suspected the plants might be drug-related, so he snapped a photo of the plants with his smartphone, looked them up on the Internet and learned they were a species of poppy used in the production of opium, according to the report.

“In my 13 years here, this is the first case I have seen of this nature,” Cooper said. “Opium is not something we have a lot of experience with. It is not a narcotic we see that often.”

An elderly resident living in the home suffers from a chronic medical condition and told police he had been using the opium to self-medicate, Cooper said.

Winder police seized all the plants and called in the Barrow County Crime Task Force to help weigh, process and store them, police said. They will continue to investigate before deciding what charges to bring against the residents.

Since the original seeds were obtained from an overseas shipment, possibly from Asia, they could face manufacturing opium charges, Cooper said.

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