Cops looking for pot find opium poppies instead

CLAREMONT, North Carolina — When drug task force investigators went to a rural home in North Carolina earlier this week, they were checking out a report of possible marijuana growing.

But when a man answered the door, he offered: “I guess you’re here for the opium.”

And it wasn’t just a few plants.

There were 2,000 pounds of poppies on a half-acre of land near Claremont, about an hour’s drive north of Charlotte.

Cody Xiong, 37, was arrested after investigators consulted with agricultural experts about what kind of plants they had discovered.

“They confirmed it was illegal to grow those plants,” Capt. Jason Reid of the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office said.

Xiong could face charges of manufacture of a Schedule II controlled substance and drug trafficking.

Law enforcement also discovered hundreds of chickens that authorities believe were being used for cockfighting.

“They still had the blades on the chickens,” Reid said. “There was evidence that they were injecting the chicken with a type of steroid to make them stronger and fight more. They had a simulated arena where the chickens would fight.”

Reid said he was told this is only the second large-scale poppy growing arrest in the United States. An online search found news reports of an 2013 bust in Washington state.

The opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) is primarily grown in Asia.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration says opium poppy is a source for codeine, heroin, morphine and other narcotics.

The milky fluid in the unripened seed pod is scraped by hand and air-dried to produce opium.