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Cotton Urges the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency to Act on Unwashed Poppy Seeds

September 12, 2018

Washington, D.C. - Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration Uttam Dhillon urging them to do more to stop the sale of morphine-laced unwashed poppy seeds, an apparent violation of the Controlled Substances Act that is causing an increasing number of deaths.

He asks the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration to answer three questions about current policy on unwashed poppy seeds:

  • Although poppy seeds are exempt from the definition of narcotic drugs under 21 U.S.C. § 802, does the Department of Justice consider the sale of morphine-laced poppy straw along with poppy seeds a violation of the Controlled Substances Act?
  • If it does constitute a violation, what kind of criminal liability can a manufacturer or distributer face for manufacturing, distributing, and dispensing morphine-laced unwashed seeds?
  • What are the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency doing to address this problem?


In April 2016, a 24-year-old Arkansan, Stephen Hacala, was found dead from a morphine overdose caused by drinking tea made with unwashed poppy seeds. At Senator Cotton's urging, Walmart agreed to stop selling unwashed poppy seeds earlier this year.

Click here to read the full text of the letter.