Upon further investigation, the plant was confirmed to be opium. Police are still unsure whether or not to be press charges against the family after an elderly relative claimed to be using the plants for medicinal purposes.
Police never would have guessed that the investigation of a hit and run accident outside Hill’s Ace Hardware store would end with an investigation of 900 opium plants behind a family home. Police were led to the home after they received a license number and description of the car that fled the scene. As they arrived at the address on Northcrest Drive, Officer Dustin Kaster noticed the strange plants that covered the backyard. Kaster believed the plants were opium but was not entirely sure, according to Winder police spokesman Chris Cooper. After doing some research on the internet while still at the home, the plants were indeed confirmed to be opium poppies.
“It is an Asian family, and this may very well have been a type of home remedy they were experimenting with, but obviously we have no laws in Georgia allowing for medicinal use of this substance,” Cooper told the AJC.
Winder police are currently waiting for information from the GBI crime lab before finalizing their decision to press any charges. “Our experience with this drug is fairly limited, and our ongoing investigation is partly being done to verify things like the quantity necessary to meet certain elements of our controlled substance laws here in Georgia as well as to learn more about the growth and uses of the raw plant in case we begin to see more of this type of activity,” admitted Cooper.
Winder police are also teaming up with the Barrow County Crime Task Force and the Barrow County District Attorney’s Office in order to conclude whether or not they will press charges against the family.
Although opium poppies are the source of many opiates, like morphine and heroine, one expert informed the AJC that the plants are harmless. Allen Sistrunk, former director of gardens at the Atlanta History Center from 1980 to 1996, sent an email to the AJC saying, “These poppies have been growing all over the Atlanta area for over 100 years… they do not produce a quantity or quality of opium worth worrying about, because of our temperate climate.” He also went on to inform the AJC that this plant is known for its tendency to spring up in unusually large amounts when they reseed.
The family in Winder is awaiting a decision by the police and are hoping that they agree with Sistrunk’s final verdict that the plants are honestly “really quite harmless.”