Another kind of flower could be coming to Wild Rose Country. A type of opium poppy used to make painkillers may be sown across southern Alberta’s plains, a newly released document shows. The federal government is giving thought to planting Canada’s first commercial poppy crop and the parched Prairies are the perfect place to do it, says a briefing note for Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “Parts of Canada, particularly southern Alberta, are ideally suited for the production of poppies,” it says. Ottawa is mulling a variation of the opium poppy called the thebaine poppy. Thebaine — chemically similar to both morphine and codeine — is used to make painkillers such as percocet, buprenorphine, oxycodone, naloxone and naltrexone. Poppies could be a cash crop for farmers battered by record dry weather this year. “Significant domestic consumer demand and commercial opportunity for the agricultural sector exists relative to poppy production in Canada,” it says. The government estimates farmers could earn $3,000 to $6,000 a hectare growing poppies, compared to about $800 for a hectare of wheat. The Canadian Press obtained the document under the Access to Information Act. The briefing note, dated Feb. 10, does not make any recommendations and it is marked for “information only.”
It’s not clear if the government ever reached a conclusion over a commercial poppy crop. The Agriculture Department said the note wasn’t meant to elicit a decision.It’s illegal in Canada to possess the opium poppy plant or its derivatives, other than poppyseed.