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Opium Poppy Cultivation

Smack, china white, horse, black tar . . . all slang names for heroin. We are often told what happens to our bodies and our minds if we use this drug made from opium poppy, but less commonly discussed is how the byproduct of a simple flower is converted into one of the most addictive drugs known to man. Also, not discussed much is how this drug makes its way from far-off growing opium poppy fields to the United States. The abuse of heroin-whether by inhalation, ingestion, or injection-is the last step in a process of many, and it is those preceding steps that we will discuss. opium poppy fields in the northern Shan State of Burma. Flowering opium Poppy Mexican Black Tar Heroin Heroin #4, also known as Smack, China White, and Horse.

Opium poppyfields in the northern Shan State of Burma

opium poppy cultivation

Heroin is derived from raw opium gum, which is produced only by the opium poppy plant, although other varieties of poppy exist. The California, Flanders, and Oriental poppy are three types grown domestically. Poppy-both the opium-producing and non-opium-producing varieties-can be found in many different climates all over the world. opium poppy has been grown in Asia for many years, and more recently has been cultivated in Latin America. About 60 percent of the world's opium is produced in the remote parts of Southeast Asia, especially in the aptly named Golden Triangle, which includes parts of Burma, Laos, and Thailand. Other primary growers include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia, and Mexico.

The leading producers of opium poppy in the world are the hill tribe people of Southeast Asia. They live under very primitive conditions with no electricity and no running water. They are very poor-opium is their currency, and it is sold or traded for basic necessities like food, clothing, and utensils. Opium is also used locally as a substitute for modern medicines because few medical supplies are available in these remote areas.

Preparing the Land

The hill tribe growers use a technique called slash-and-burn farming to prepare the opium poppy fields for planting. After all the trees have been cut down and vegetation cleared and burned, the farmers take handfuls of seed and spread them over the field. opium poppies take about three months to mature, and the farmer may weed the fields once or twice during that time. When the plants are mature, the farmers start harvesting opium gum using primitive, unsanitary tools, made from whatever can be found nearby. The tools are often handed down from generation to generation.

Just before reaching maturity, the opium poppy plant produces a flower. After about a week, the flower petals fall off, leaving a capsule. Raw opium gum is harvested from this capsule. The surface of the capsule is cut, or "scored," with a knife containing three or four small blades, and the opium gum oozes out through these cuts in the opium poppy. The next day, the farmer scrapes the gum off the capsules with a flat tool called a scraper. Each capsule is usually scored in this manner three to five times, or until scoring produces no more gum. opium poppy fields contain thousands of opium poppy capsules, so harvesting is very labor intensive. Once the gum is collected, the farmer sets it out to dry for several days, then wraps it in banana leaf or plastic. The gum is stored until a trader comes to the village-opium gum has a very long shelf life and can gain value over time. After the harvesting process is complete, the capsules are cut from the stem, allowed to dry, then broken open so that the seeds inside the capsule can be used for next year's crop.

Refining Raw Opium

Refining raw opium poppy into heroin is a tedious, multistep process. Once the opium gum is transported to a refinery, it is converted into morphine, an intermediate product. This conversion is achieved primarily by chemical processes and requires several basic elements and implements. Boiling water is used to dissolve opium gum; 55-gallon drums are used for boiling vessels; and burlap sacks are used to filter and strain liquids. When dried, the morphine resulting from this initial process is pressed into bricks. The conversion of morphine bricks into heroin is also primarily a chemical process. The main chemical used is acetic anhydride, along with sodium carbonate, activated charcoal, chloroform, ethyl alcohol, ether, and acetone. The two most commonly produced heroin varieties are No. 3 heroin, or smoking heroin, and No. 4 heroin, or injectable heroin.

Converting Opium to Heroin

The refining process has been perfected to the point where heroin purity levels are above 90 percent, as the product leaves the refinery. However, as the heroin makes its way to US, it passes through many hands. To maximize individual profit, substances that make the heroin less pure and more bulky are added at each stop. These dilutants are white and powdery just like the heroin and include caffeine, baking soda, powdered milk, and quinine. By the time the heroin gets to the user, it is often only about 40 percent pure, and little is known by anyone involved in the production or trafficking of the drug about the components of the other 60 percent.

Heroin enters this country in many ways. It is carried in luggage, in shipping containers on cargo ships, and by courier. Recently, drug smugglers have been forced to be more creative because trafficking laws are getting more stringent, and police and customs officials are devising new ways to detect drugs. Newer smuggling methods are seemingly limited only by a trafficker's imagination. Couriers swallow bags of heroin, cross the border, and wait for the bags to run their digestive course. Bags of heroin are also put in the gas tanks and tires of cars and driven across borders, or mixed in with garbage that ends up in refuse containers. Sometimes the heroin is placed inside figurines or in furniture. In an extreme example, recently a border patrol unit in Texas found about $5 million worth of narcotics stuffed in human body parts-legs, arms, and intestines-that had been stolen from a hospital. The traffickers said this was to hide the drugs' smell from drug-sniffing dogs, but it was unsuccessful. Hopefully, we have provided you with a better understanding of the long chain of events by which a product from a seemingly innocuous flower, the opium poppy, becomes heroin sold on US streets. The drug goes through many different hands and changes form several times, and there is really no way for a buyer to know how it has been altered or how it was smuggled across the border. With the strong help of law enforcement, different governments, and government agencies, we continue to increase our understanding of the problem


Additional Articles on Poppies

Afghani Poppies

The war on terror against countries the United States deems the .Axis of Evil. has impacted the war on opium. In Afghanistan, a major grower of poppies and trafficker of opium, the war on opium has all but ceased due to military activity in the Middle Eastern country. Actions including spraying the poppy fields with chemicals to kill the flowers are proposed measures as the war on opium advances again. This chemical spraying is be conducted from the air and hope to stop the opium trade at its source.the poppy fields. The State Department has requested a $750 million for an Afghanistan counter-narcotics program that is expected to be granted. An estimated $152 million of that aid is expected to be spent on the aerial poppy eradication program.

California Poppies

California.s Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is truly one of the Golden State.s most unique state parks. Located in the western Antelope Valley, the Poppy Reserve is dedicated to preserving the state.s famed species of poppy.the California poppy. The state flower of California grows unrestrained in 1745 acre state park. The park does not water the poppies or provide any other maintenance to ensure the field is totally natural. Sheep used to graze amidst the poppies, however in the early 1970s the park relocated the flock, since the California poppy prefers to grow in an undisturbed environment. The only proactive means the Poppy Reserve has taken is performing prescribed burns. This action is performed in hopes to prevent devastating wild fires.

Dried Poppies

On March 6, 1996, just before 7:00p.m., Jim Hogshire, the author of Opium for the Masses was inside his apartment when over a dozen members of the Seattle Police Department Narcotics Unit burst in with a search warrant authorizing a search of the apartment for...

Growing Opium Poppies

If you are interested in growing your own crop of opium poppies (Papaver somniferum), the seeds are available for sale online. The sites that sell these seeds make it a special point to say the seeds are not for growing. However, it can be assumed the majority of customers aren.t wishing to shell out that kind of money to buy poppy seeds for baking purposes.

Growing Opium Poppy

This article will describe the process for growing opium poppies. As most poppies are somniferum in variety, most regular poppy farms are actually growing opium poppies.

History of Poppies

The poppy plant, Paper somniferum.s history begins with the ancient Sumerians. The ancient Sumerians referred to the flower as .hul gil. or plant of joy. The Sumerians passed their knowledge of the plant to the Assyrians. The Assyrians gave their knowledge of poppy cultivation to the Babylonians who passed their understanding to the Egyptians. inThe opium trade flourished during the reign of the Egyptian Pharaohs. The Egyptian civilization promoted use of opium as a sleep aid. Even Egyptian Pharaohs were buried with opium artifacts.

How to grow Papaver Somniferum

Opium poppies are annuals, which means they grow, flower, and fruit in one season, then die. They generally like cool weather best. Barely cover the papaver somniferum seeds, and sow sparsely so you will have less to thin.

In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow