In mid-May, authorities discovered an acre of poppy fields in Monterey County.
By the end of the month, they carried out the largest known opium poppy bust in California history, according to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office.
"We know it's the biggest grow in California history and we believe it could be the biggest in the nation," sheriff's spokesman Cmdr. John Thornburg told the Monterey County Herald.
In a Facebook post, the agency announced that, in addition to the acre found at Moss Landing, they found seven more fields of the flowers in a span of three days. Five of the fields were in Royal Oaks and two were in Aromas.
The sheriff’s office was helped during this operation by the California National Guard, according to the agency.
Officials destroyed 34,386 pounds, or 17 tons, of mature opium poppies, the sheriff’s office said, and officials found more than 500 pounds of opium poppy pods at one of the locations.
In total, about 160,000 opium poppy plants were destroyed and the total land area where all these plants were growing was 5.6 acres, the sheriff’s office said. The poppies can be used to make opioids, including heroin.
The poppy grows were all on private property, according to the Monterey County Herald, and officials got search warrants and have been in contact with the property owners.
KSBW 8 reported that the names of the property owners haven’t been released because no one has been arrested or charged with a crime.
Investigators are also still trying to confirm why the plants were grown, KSBW 8 reported.
“If they just thought they were pretty plants, if that’s true, then maybe it’s just an innocent mistake,” Thornburg told the station.
But the sheriff’s office did talk to a botanist after the first poppy field was discovered in Moss Landing —the first opium poppy bust in county history — and were told the plants are not native to California, the Monterey County Herald reported.
“It’s pretty clear from what we’ve seen that these didn’t just accidentally land somewhere, somebody put them there,” he told the newspaper.
The investigation is ongoing, and details were not immediately available regarding whether all eight fields were connected to each other.