OPERATION WINTERGREEN LEADS TO ARRESTS IN HUGE MARIJUANA/THC BUST
The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, along with the TBI and the 22nd Judicial Drug Task Force, conducted a raid last Wednesday dubbed “Operation Wintergreen,” taking down what Sheriff Shane Fisher called the most elaborate and sophisticated marijuana grow house and THC extraction operation he has ever seen. The bust was so large that semi trucks had to be brought in to haul the 6-foot marijuana plants and equipment from the site.
The large metal building, which is located on Highway 13 South about a mile north of the Alabama state line, is remembered by many as the old Johnny’s Club and then The Pink Pony during the ‘80s and ‘90s. Reports state that a medical investment group began leasing the building a few years ago for the alleged purpose of storing medical records, and immediately constructed a 10-foot-high privacy fence around the building.
According to Sheriff Fisher, the building was discovered on Wednesday to actually be housing a 7,500 square foot marijuana grow operation, divided into different sections for various stages of plant cultivation. He stated that one section of the building was set up as an on-site lab for the extraction of THC from the marijuana plants. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects. Once the THC chemical has been extracted from the plant, it can be put into pods or cartridges for vape devices.
Sheriff Fisher said that he could not emphasize enough how sophisticated, dangerous, and volatile the operation going on inside this building actually was. He explained that the marijuana plants being grown there were genetically manipulated to increase their THC levels as much as possible. While most marijuana only has around 7% THC, these plants were up to 80% THC. Sheriff Fisher explained that THC levels that high, when introduced into the human body, are potent enough to cause brain damage and organ failure. He went on to say that what people may not understand is that CBD, the therapeutic component of marijuana, does not produce the “high” that marijuana users experience. The “high” is strictly produced by the THC in the plant.
The Sheriff said that the operation going on in the raided building was a danger to those who lived nearby, along with anyone driving on Highway 13 past the building, due to the explosive chemicals being used in the THC extraction process. He said that information from community partners in the area led to the investigation and raid of the site.
As of press time on Monday, one arrest had been made in relation to Operation Wintergreen. Alisa Lynn Balentine, age 36, of Sheffield, Alabama, was arrested on Saturday and charged with manufacture of a controlled substance (marijuana) over 500 plants; conspiracy to manufacture, sell, and deliver a controlled substance (marijuana) over 500 plants; manufacture of marijuana concentrate using inherently hazardous substances; and possession of drug paraphernalia. She was booked into the Wayne County Jail on $355,000.00 bond.
Sheriff Fisher stated that the alleged ringleader of the operation, Stuart Marc Greenberg, an optometrist who resides in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was scheduled to turn himself in to the Wayne County Jail on Monday. Greenberg is listed as the sole proprietor of SMG Investments, Inc., the company that owns/leases the building housing the marijuana operation. The sheriff also stated that at least one more arrest is expected in connection to the operation.
Trucks and trailers owned by Danny Sandusky of Sandusky Logging were brought in to haul away the marijuana and extraction equipment from the site. Sheriff Fisher extended his appreciation to Sandusky for his help, as well as to the citizens in the community who gave information that led to the investigation and ultimately the arrests in connection to the operation.
“I want everyone to know that anything operating or coming into Wayne County that is a danger to our citizens, we will stop,” said Sheriff Fisher. “We are relentless in our efforts to protect our citizens.”