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Originally published Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 2:52 PM

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Rare drug bust: Trucker arrested with poppy pods

BOW — The Skagit County drug task force fell upon an unusual drug case last week involving thousands of poppy seed pods headed to Canada for tea.

Skagit Valley Herald

BOW, Skagit County — The Skagit County drug task force fell upon an unusual drug case last week involving thousands of poppy-seed pods headed to Canada for tea.

A 49-year-old Surrey, B.C., man was driving a hidden load of dried poppy pods to Canada Thursday afternoon in a semi truck when he stopped at a weigh station in Bow. State Patrol officers conducting a routine inspection of the man's semi found seven boxes of the dried flower pods hidden among rolls of paper, said Skagit County drug-task-force Chief Will Reichardt.

"This is a first," Reichardt said of the cache.

He said the man is a self-employed trucker who was delayed getting into Canada and was driving south on a personal errand when he stopped at the weigh station.

"He was killing time," Reichardt said.

Investigators found 115 pounds of the dried flower pods.

"This is opium in its raw form," said an undercover drug-task-force detective, pointing at an evidence box full of thousands of the cream-colored pods at the Skagit County Sheriff's Office. When the pods were shaken, the poppy seeds could be heard inside like a baby's rattle.

The detective, who asked not to be named because he works undercover, said the drug is usually crushed up and poured into drinks like tea.

Reichardt said only certain kinds of poppies can be used as a drug. Most poppies do not contain opium.

The seized poppy seeds tested positive for morphine, Reichardt said.

Opium is more common in Canada than in the Skagit County area, he said, because the drug is popular in the Asian and East Indian communities.

There is a bigger population from those cultures in Canada than here, he said.

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Reichardt said he didn't know where the drugs came from in the states. Investigators are looking into whether the poppies may have originated in Afghanistan, where much of the world's opium poppies are grown.

Detectives had a hard time placing a value on the poppies because of the rarity of poppy cases here, but they said it could be about $50,000 worth.

The man was booked into jail briefly, but released pending further investigation.

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