Atmore man charged with trafficking in pot
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
A 65-year-old resident of Atmore’s Point Escambia senior housing complex remained in the county jail this week, held under a $1 million bond and facing mandatory prison time, after his arrest last week on marijuana trafficking charges.
State narcotics agents, backed by city police officers and county sheriff’s deputies, executed a search warrant June 3 on the Point Escambia apartment of Gregory Thomas Nix. Nix was arrested when the search yielded several plastic containers of marijuana, along with a set of scales and an undisclosed quantity of THC-laced candy and THC-laced lip balm.
According to a press release issued by Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks, the operation was carried out by agents of the Alabama Drug Enforcement Task Force, assisted by uniformed APD officers, city detectives in plain clothes and county sheriff’s deputies.
The lawmen quickly located what they came for, seizing what turned out to be more than a kilo of pot.
“Upon entering the apartment, agents and officers found numerous plastic containers containing marijuana,” the police chief said. “Agents also located the candy, lip balm, several pre-rolled marijuana joints and a set of scales used to weigh illegal drugs.”
When the suspect and seized substances arrived back at police headquarters, the high-grade, manicured marijuana buds were dumped into six quart-size plastic bags. The weight of the illegal weed was enough to justify the trafficking charge.
“After arriving back at the station, agents emptied the marijuana into bags and found that it weighed in excess of 2.2 pounds,” Brooks said.
Under Code Section 13A-12-231 of Alabama law, a person who “knowingly sells, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, in excess of one kilo or 2.2 pounds of any part of the plant of the genus Cannabis … is guilty of a felony, which felony shall be known as ‘trafficking in cannabis’.”
The $1 million bond has lit up local social media sites, with most of the comments on the Atmore News Facebook page, whether pro-marijuana or anti-marijuana, filled with surprise or outrage at the amount of Nix’s bond.
“I’ve always said the worst thing about cannabis is getting caught with it, and this proves it,” posted Lyndon Howell. “Child molesters don’t get that high of a bond.”
Escambia County District Judge Eric Coale, who set the bond, said he has required similar initial bonds for nearly every drug-trafficking suspect who has come before him. State bail and bond guidelines allow for a range between $5,000 and $1.5 million on drug manufacturing or trafficking charges.
“I’m not singling him out at all,” Coale said. “Most of the trafficking cases, I’m pretty consistent with a million dollars. Everybody is up in arms about this one, but they usually want me to make it more, not less. It could have been $500,000 higher. Sometimes it seems like you just can’t win.”
The district judge said a defendant’s demeanor is one thing he considers when preparing to hear an argument for a lower bond.
“He was very respectful, very cordial when he came before me,” Coale said of Nix. “That’s certainly something in his favor that I’ll take into consideration when he files for a bond reduction.”
More bad news for Nix comes from the fact that if a person is convicted of trafficking even a few grams more than a kilo, but less than 100 pounds, of cannabis, that person “shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of three calendar years.” A fine of up to $25,000 could also be levied.
According to an employee of the Escambia County Detention Center’s booking and release division, the Atmore man has remained behind bars since his arrest. He is charged with one count each of trafficking in marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.