Edmonton police have seized what they believe to be a record-setting number of opium poppy heads from a southside business.
“We think this is the largest opium seizure in Alberta history,” said acting Insp. Greg Preston with the organized crime unit.
Police were tipped off by the Peel Regional Police to a 12-box shipment of poppy heads. The long cardboard boxes, marked “dried flowers” on the side, were shipped last Wednesday and received Thursday in Edmonton.
Undercover officers were able to conduct a “controlled delivery” to a business on 27th Avenue and 48th Street as a result of the tip and arrested Ravi Mohan Jolly, 52. A search warrant was then issued for the premises, which resulted in the seizure of more than 160 pounds of poppy heads and 13 ounces of a powdered form of the dried poppy head commonly called “doda.”
In total, Preston said, the street value of the seized drugs is somewhere between $12,000 and $20,000.
The drug is sold both as a whole poppy head, which retails for about $2, or as ground-up doda, which sells for between $10 and $25 per ounce. The ground-up poppy husks are usually put into tea, which when consumed has the same effect as any other opiate.
Preston said there were poppy heads on the premises when police arrived, indicating the man had received at least one other shipment. However, police do not yet know how long the drug had been sold there.
Police in Edmonton and Ontario are still figuring out where the drugs originated, though Preston said they were probably grown in Pakistan or Afghanistan. While Ontario police have been dealing with this for a while, it’s a new phenomenon for the Edmonton police.
“This is the first bust of its kind,” Preston said.
“This is new to the EPS. . . We’ve learned a lot from this.”
There is no target demographic for the drug, but Preston said it appears to be used largely by drivers and truckers who use it to stay awake.
“I think there’s a fallacy out there that because it’s a poppy there are no harmful effects,” Preston said.
“This is an illegal substance and it has all the harmful effects of any opiate.”
Jolly and his business, Neelkamal Indian Grocery & Movies Ltd., were jointly charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Preston said there were no other drugs at the store besides the seized opium poppies and doda.
By Laura Drake
August 18, 2009