- Cullman, Alabama

December 30, 2013

Four people, including marijuana legalization advocate, arrested for trafficking

By Lauren Estes
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Four Cullman residents, including the head of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition, were arrested for growing over 30 marijuana plants in their home on County Road 821.

Christopher Lee Butts, 44, Sonja Renea Franks, 47, Stephen Dylan Franks, 22, and Amber Brooke Nixon, 22, were all arrested for trafficking illegal drugs and Nixon was also charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance after heroin was found on her person.

Butts is the co-president and board chair of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition, which a state-wide group in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

Sheriff Mike Rainey said all four people were living at the residence when a tip came in that required a child welfare check Saturday morning around 11 a.m. A child was also removed from the residence following the arrest.

“There was a 12-year-old boy living at the home and when deputies went to the door, Christopher Butts opened it and the deputies smelled a strong marijuana  odor within the residence,” Rainey said. “They made the boy come to the door to make sure he was okay and then they requested consent to search the home and the residents refused.”

Rainey said Sergeant Terry Smith and K-9 officer Kevin Lewis detained the four adults and called the Cullman Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET) who arrived with a signed warrant to search the home and outdoor storage shed.

“When searching the residence, the agents found multiple glass jars with marijuana buds in them,” Rainey said. “The warrant also gave consent to search the outdoor building which was where the marijuana growing operation was located.”

Smith, Lewis and the two CNET agents found over 30 pot plants growing in the storage shed outside the home. Each adult was charged with trafficking illegal drugs. The Department of Human Resources was notified and the 12-year-old boy was removed from the home.

Butts and both Franks were each taken to the Cullman County Detention Center and held on a $1 million bond; Nixon was held on a $1.5 million bond. Stephen Franks has since posted bond.

“It’s been an ongoing investigation since the summer and we’re very proud of the proactive work of all those law enforcement officers involved in these arrests,” Rainey said.

%Lauren Estes can be reached at or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.