LETHBRIDGE: More trial plots of thebaine poppies were in the ground outside of Lethbridge
again this summer -- a lot more. The results continue to be positive.
A-P-I Labs were granted Federal Government permission a couple years ago to
grow the thebaine poppy plants, which can be used to make pain killers like
codeine and other derivatives such as oxycodone.
They complete the first test crop last year and learned poppy cultivation is
well suited to this area. This year, the test plots (in an undisclosed area
outside of Lethbridge) were 100-times larger. The plant's growth characteristics
continue to show higher levels of seed production and alkaloid content than
Glen Metzler, Director of A-P-I Labs, says they have seen good branching in
the plants and a lot more pods here than are typically seen in other grower
areas. He thinks it's because we are a farther northern area than the climates
that are growing the poppies in Asia and Europe.
Metzler says they haven't yet reached the commercial production stage yet,
since there are a number of different components that have to be addressed when
introducing a new crop. He says that includes practical matters, "Becasue the
seed is very small, anything close to that would be a canola seed, so there is
some modication of equipment that we're looking at so that we're in a situation
where farmers that have traditional equipment could use that or farmers that
have specific types of equipment could be seeding this and then also harvesting
it. It's a matter of how we scale the program up so that it has a commercial
application with farming practices that we currently use in western Canada".
Metzler says A-P-I Labs are still in the research phase, however discussions
continue with various levels of government including Health Canada, for
regulation changes to allow commercial production of thebaine poppy.
According to Metzler, "The test plots are clearly proving poppy production is
possible in our climate". However, he says going forward with commerical
production will depend on how fast regulations on the government side can be
dealt with. He noted, "The Alberta government has struck a task force now, as
well, to begin moving this (commerical production) ahead. We are getting good
response out of Ottawa and this issue is that this hasn't been done before and
everyone has to be cautious, considering what you're dealing with. things are
moving but they are moving in a careful, controlled manner so, as far as a time
line (for commercial production) it's pretty hard for me to say"
Metzler went on to say, "We will just keep growing and in the next two to
three years, I would imagine that we'll be in a position where commercial
potential would be something we could look at".
Next year, A-P-I Labs will scale-up testing plots again, to allow for further
testing, both for the poppy content and to ensure data they have so far is
consistent and to allow for possible equipment trials.
Right now, Canada imports most of it's codeine from other countries which
produce the poppy. If poppy production reaches the commercial state, it could
help local farmers earn five to seven times what they get from traditional
It should be noted, the public is in not at risk of drug trafficking issues
related to the growing of thebaine poppy. This specific type of plant is an
""opium mutant poppy", which means the raw plant can not be used to produce
narcotics in a kitchen lab. Thebaine poppy can only be converted into codeine,
morphine or oxycodone in an elaborate facility which is beyond the financial
means of drug dealers.