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Opium poppy plants found in North Carolina worth $500M: sheriff

Poppy field bust

CLAREMONT, N.C. -- A field of poppy plants that could be used to make opium was discovered in North Carolina and had an estimated value of $500 million, a sheriff tells CBS affiliate WBTV.

Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said the only other opium poppy plant field found in the U.S. this year was in California.

The acre of poppy plants were in rows, similar to how corn would be planted, in a field behind a home. He told the station samples were sent to a state lab to confirm the plants are in fact opium poppy, but added that little doubt remained that they were.

"One of our narcotics investigators came to the house looking for something else. When he knocked on the door, the guy said, 'I guess you're here about the opium,'" the sheriff said.

An acre-wide opium poppy field plant discovered in Catawba County, N.C. WBTV

The sheriff's office says Cody Xiong was arrested and charged with manufacture and trafficking by possession. It's unclear if he has a lawyer.

Officials don't think opium was being made on the property.

"The plants are being harvested here, and sent somewhere else where the opium is being produced from the plant," Capt. Jason Reid said told WBTV.

Plants were being pulled up Tuesday and loaded into trailers. Authorities tell the Charlotte Observer that $500 million is a rough estimate of the value, because the plants still need to be weighed. The plants are expected to be destroyed.

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