Child welfare check leads deputies to marijuana growing operatio - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Child welfare check leads deputies to marijuana growing operation

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Clockwise from top left: Christopher Butts, Amber Nixon, Stephen Franks, Sonja Franks. Source: Cullman Sheriff Clockwise from top left: Christopher Butts, Amber Nixon, Stephen Franks, Sonja Franks. Source: Cullman Sheriff
CULLMAN COUNTY, AL (WBRC) -

A child welfare check leads to a marijuana growing operation bust in Cullman County and the arrest of the head of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition.

The bust happened Saturday at a home on CR 821 near Smith Lake. According to Cullman County Sheriff Mike Rainey, 30 marijuana plants were found in what he called an "elaborate setup."

Sheriff Rainey said the case began as a welfare check on a child at the home. Cullman County deputies and K-9 responded to the residence and could smell a "very strong odor of marijuna" as they stood in the doorway.

Deputies waited for one of the occupants to bring the child out for a quick inspection and when they asked if they could enter the home, the residents refused.

Deputies then detained four adults who were inside the home: Christopher Butts, 42, Sonja Franks, 46, Stephen Franks, 22, and Amber Nixon, 22. Butts, according to the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition website, is the group's executive director.

The Cullman Narcotics Enforcement Team searched the home after obtaining a search warrant and found glass jars with marijuana "buds" inside. Three rooms in an outbuilding contained a system for growing marijuana, which is where deputies found about 30 marijuana plants.

All four suspects were arrested on charges of trafficking marijuana and booked into the Cullman County Detention Center on a $1 million bond each. Nixon received another charge of unlawful possession of a controlled substance after deputies found a small amount of heroin in her possession, the sheriff said.

More charges could be filed in the case. The child in the home was released to a family member.

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