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Another Opium Poppy Field Found On The Central Coast

Another illegal opium poppy field has been discovered on the Central Coast. This ninth field was found in Santa Cruz County. It’s located by a vacant house on Riverside Drive just outside Watsonville.  

According to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, the home has been vacant for about three months. A bank owns the house. Someone working for the bank noticed the illegal opium poppy plants and contacted the Sheriff’s Office.

Sergeant Brian Cleveland with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office says at first, deputies thought maybe there were 100 plants. But on Tuesday, they found between 400 and 500 of them. They also found more that had already been harvested.

The plants were disguised in a field with high vegetation.

“A lot of the flowers and the plants were located in between onions and weeds and so they were very hard to see,” Cleveland says.

The plant, which blooms a bright pink or red flower, also contains opium that can be processed into heroin.

“This is the first opium poppy grow that I’ve seen in the 11 years I’ve been here,” Cleveland says.

The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t know who planted them yet. But Sergeant Cleveland says one angle detectives will look at is if this is connected to the recent legalization of recreational marijuana.

“The possibility is that the money not being as fruitful for the illegal growers, maybe this is an option that they’re turning to,” Cleveland says.  

This grow is very close to eight other illegal opium poppy fields recently discovered in neighboring  Monterey County. The two departments will work together to see if and how these fields are connected.

Erika joined KAZU in 2016. Her roots in radio began at an early age working for the independent community radio station in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2012, Erika spent four years working as a television reporter. She’s very happy to be back in public radio and loves living in the Monterey Bay Area.
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