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Brew With Poppies, Go To Jail

According to a story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, a 28-year old graduate student (in chemistry, no less) was arrested last Friday for using dried poppy pods in his homebrew. Police believe that the student extracted opium from the poppy pods, converting it to morphine before using it the beer. That type of poppy — not the California poppy, California’s state flower — is a Schedule II drug, classified as a narcotic, by the federal government.

According to the student, Chad Renzelman, he bought the poppies on eBay (and wasn’t growing any) and used them last month to brew a beer with a group of friends that he homebrews in weekly in a co-op. Though all of the poppy beer is gone, it reportedly was slightly stronger but had nothing beyond a little “kick to it.” In addition to the Poppy Ale, the co-op has also recently made a chocolate mint stout and a mango blonde ale, so flavored beers are nothing new.

Renzelman also says in the article that “lab investigators from the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, chemists from the state Department of Justice and officials from county Environmental Health were called to survey [his] backyard because police suspected he was dumping hazardous poppy waste there.” Apparently some were even wearing those scary-looking hazmat suits to sift through his compost heap looking for his spent grain.

More from the article:

Police reported finding a pressurized canister of homemade beer laced with morphine in Renzelman’s garage, as well as lab equipment contaminated with opium alkaloids and other hazardous chemicals. Police suspected the poppies were used in the beer production, but that’s still illegal, Capt. Steve Clark said.

If convicted of the crime he was arrested for — suspicion of possessing and manufacturing a controlled substance — Renzelman could be sentenced to seven years in prison.

On one hand, it seems awfully silly that homebrewing with poppies caused such a scene, but I guess that’s the nature of our no tolerance drug policy. Where, by the way, do all the poppy seeds that end up on bread come from? But on the other hand, it seems pretty unlikely that a graduate student in chemistry wouldn’t know he shouldn’t be messing around with opiate poppies.


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