North Carolina police arrested a man after they seized just under an acre’s worth of opium poppy in Catawba County Tuesday morning.
Deputies obtained a search warrant for the property after receiving a tip last week, CBS affiliate WBTV reported.
Cody Xiong was arrested and charged with manufacturing and trafficking by possession, police said.
The opium poppy plant is the principal source of opium.
“He knew exactly what he was growing,” Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said of the suspect.
Reid said there has been only one other opium poppy plant field in the United States this year, in California.
“Poppy plants in Catawba County and North Carolina is something new to the area,” he said.
There were eight to 10 deputies and SBI agents Tuesday morning wearing protective clothing to pull hundreds of plants out of the ground at the home on Poultry Drive. Authorities spent two hours pulling poppy plants, worth an estimated $500 million, out of the ground.
“We saw some plants that have been scored allowing the drug itself — opium — to pour out of the poppy plants,” Captain Jason Reid said.
A state lab is analyzing samples to confirm the plants are opium poppy.
There was no evidence of the plants being made into opium on the property, officials said, WBTV reported.
“The plants are being harvested here, and sent somewhere else where the opium is being produced from the plant,” Captain Reid said