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Valley store restricts bulk sale of poppy seeds, police say could be tied to drug use

Published: Feb. 24, 2016 at 10:26 PM EST
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Harrisonburg police said folks need to be on the lookout for "poppy tea," which is made from common household products, including poppy seeds. They said it could be connected to the death of JMU student Steven Underhill.

His classmate Azriel Swift talked about how he felt when he heard the news of his death. "Just to hear something like that, you know it just throws you for a loop. I mean I had nightmares I mean going to bed you know that-just thinking about that, so it really stuck with me the whole day," said Swift.

Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith said while poppy tea isn't a big issue in Augusta county, it's deadly because it's potency can vary widely. "Each time that you use it and you consume it, it's never the same," said Smith. "Somebody may use it two or three times and be fine, but the fourth time it may kill them."

While there are no restrictions on how much poppy seed a person can buy, at least one local grocer decided to take matters into his own hands. Gary Eavers owns the Cheese Shop in Stuarts Draft. He said, "When we saw about the possibility about the student at JMU passed away and that being related- his death being related possibly to the use of poppy tea, it was kind of like the last straw."

He's no longer selling large quantities of poppy seeds at his store. "We don't want to have any kind of a guilty conscience or to feel like we've contributed to someone's addiction," said Eavers.

Police are still awaiting the toxicology report in Underhill's death.