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A field with white poppies Guardia Civil
Police launch special operation targeting tourists who steal opium from white poppies
Crime

Police launch special operation targeting tourists who steal opium from white poppies

The opium extracted from the flowers is either used for self-consumption or sold on the black market for its painkilling and hallucinogenic effects

J.M.L.

Tuesday, 11 June 2024, 23:08

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The Guardia Civil is launching a special operation in Toledo province targeting tourists who are taking the highly-addictive opium from white poppies.

The opium poppy grows wild in large parts of the province south of Madrid. For years, the Guardia Civil has been able to ascertain that its existence attracts a type of tourism from other parts of Spain and from countries such as France, Italy and Germany, which has nothing to do with the beauty of its petals, but rather with its resin.

It is a simple herbaceous plant which has a high content of opium. To extract it, white poppy tourists cut the fruit lengthwise, causing the bulb to shed white latex. It is then oxidised in the sun, collected, kneaded and left to dry. The result is opium that can either be used for self-consumption or sold on the black market for its painkilling and hallucinogenic effects.

"There is a call effect among people who have visited the province of Toledo in search of this poppy and other people, and even those who came in previous years come back," said Lieutenant Valentín Martínez-Reche from the judicial police unit of the Guardia Civil in Toledo.

Illegal and deadly

This is an illegal practice which is considered a criminal offence - above 50 grammes of seized opium can lead to imprisonment of between six months and three years. Below this amount would only carry a penalty of between 600 and 900 euros.

But as well as being illegal, its consumption - smoked, infused or mixed with food - can be deadly. In 2019, a 20-year-old Irishman named Ryan died in Polán (Toledo) after ingesting an excessive amount of poppy capsules along with hashish, which caused breathing difficulties that proved lethal. At the autopsy, forensic examiners found his lungs were swollen and full of fluid.

A few years earlier, in 2009, the same fate befell Pasquale, a 32-year-old Italian, a polydrug addict and epileptic, who died of asphyxiation and convulsions after ingesting opium on a legal poppy farm in Albacete where he had gone in with some friends to steal opium.

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