MONTEREY COUNTY (KPIX 5) – Over two weeks after authorities busted a massive opium poppy field in moss landing, more fields have been found throughout Monterey County.
25,000 plants were confiscated at the Moss Landing field in mid-May. An additional seven fields were later discovered: five were found in in Royal Oaks and another two fields uncovered in Aromas. Combined, there were enough poppies to cover more than five acres.
The acres of illegal poppies were hiding in plain sight, mixed in with other flower varieties in one of the open farm fields in Aromas. Other fields were found next to a major highway and in a residential neighborhood.
The poppies produce pretty pink flowers, but inside, the raw material that is used to produce opium, morphine and heroin.
“They’ll take a spoon and they’ll take that paste out and that’s the product that they are going to turn into the opioid,” said Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal.
In all, Monterey County Sheriff’s deputies cut down 17 tons of poppies, making it the biggest poppy bust in California history and one of the biggest ever in the U.S.
“We want to make sure that the opium products isn’t getting out on the streets and getting into the hands of number one, kids, said Bernal. And second, we have an opioid epidemic in this country. And this is one step in trying to fight that, tearing these fields down.”
The cut poppies will be buried in a landfill.
In the meantime, normal farming operations appeared to be continuing in at least one of the fields, which now has a large bare dirt patch in the middle.
So far, no one has been arrested in connection with the poppy fields.
Investigators are trying to track down who planted the poppies and why.
They say a grower can make $40,000 to $50,000 per acre through the illicit market, five times as much as legal cut flowers.
“Because it’s been illegal for a hundred years, it’s going to be difficult to say ‘I didn’t know,'” said Bernal.