Two men have been arrested at a three-hectare opium poppy field in Chilliwack, B.C., the largest operation of its kind ever discovered in Canada, according to the RCMP.
Police estimate that more than 60,000 opium poppy plants were being grown in the field, with the aim of turning them into a substance known as doda, an opium powder made by grinding the dried seed pod into a fine powder, which is normally consumed in tea.
Police busted the operation on Aug. 23, after obtaining a search warrant under the Controlled Drug and Substance Act, they said in a statement issued on Thursday morning.
The two men were tending the field at the time and could face charges of production of a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking, said police.
Their names have not been released, but police said one was a 31-year-old Abbotsford man and the other was a 24-year-old Mission man. Both were released and scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 14.
Police said the suspects were not known to them previously, and they believe they were leasing the farmland from its owner.
A local farmer was contracted to plow under the crop and ensure that it does not reproduce next spring, said police.
Prohibited and addictive
Harry Bains, the MLA for Surrey-Newton, has warned of the dangers of doda in recent years.
"It's very highly addictive. It's highly potent. And once you're on it, you're on it. It has destroyed families," said Bains.
According to Health Canada, doda is a prohibited substance under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Police warn it can be addictive, just like other opium derivatives.
"Doda is often taken with tea or hot water, and produces a quick high followed by a sense of well-being. While the use of doda is a new trend in opium consumption, its use appears to be primarily localized within certain South Asian communities," said RCMP.
"While investigators believe that the intended use of the opium poppy located was for the production of doda, other more potent drugs can be refined from the plants such as heroin," said police.
"Codeine and morphine are also byproducts of the opium poppy plants, which are used pharmaceutically and require a doctor's prescription as they are [a] controlled substance under Canadian laws. Opium, and its derivatives, are addictive," said police.