FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash.-- NBC Right Now on the scene Wednesday as authorities served a federal search warrant at a Franklin County poppy farm.
The Metro Drug Task Force is trying to determine if the poppies seized are illegal and possibly used for drugs. The authorities found about 20 acres of poppies out in plain sight in the Franklin County neighborhood.
The field of poppies is now completely cut and cleared.
The Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force and federal DEA agents served a search warrant to collect and shut down this poppy seed farm.
Farm machinery flattened the fields and agents cut the poppy seed pods, filling up box after box. This is not the first time authorities have visited the farm.
Kenneth and Shanna French were arrested in October for allegedly selling poppy seed pods containing compounds found in opium poppies, but no charges were filed. The Frenches say they sell the pods for decorations.
A federal investigation will investigate if the cleared poppies were illegal.
"It is rare in my experience as 18 years in law enforcement where illegal poppies are being grown right under the public's nose," said Cmdr. Trevor White, Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force.
It is so rare that Franklin County Sheriff Richard Lathim says this may be the first illegal grow operation in the U.S.
"It's kind of bold but I guess it's because no one's used to seeing that stuff. It's out in the open. I mean there's people living here. It's obviously twenty some acres here that's growing out in front of everybody," Lathim said.
The poppies in the field were all dried out. Dried poppy seed pods are commonly used to make poppy seed tea that gives an opiate high like heroin. It is highly addictive and can be deadly.
If the poppies are found to be illegal and the owner of the field is found to be using them for illegal purposes, they could be facing federal charges of manufacturing a controlled substance.