The sale of $25,000 worth of cannabis was supposed to help a retired couple pay for a cruise to New Zealand, instead a 60-year-old has headed off to jail.
Steven Petherick was this week sentenced to 18 months in jail, with a minimum of 10 months, after he pleaded guilty to cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis at his property in Upotipotpon, outside Benalla.
In sentencing Petherick in the County Court this week, Judge Susan Pullen said his work to grow more than 100 kilograms of the drug was "most serious and obviously unacceptable".
Police attended the Upotipotpon property at 11.15pm on February 14, 2019 for an unrelated matter.
"While at your home, they noticed a strong smell of cannabis coming from a greenhouse approximately 50 metres from your home," Judge Pullen said.
Officers found 57 large cannabis plants growing inside, with a weight of 106.14 kilograms - more than four times the amount classified as a commercial quantity.
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Petherick told police a woman he used to be in a relationship with came up with the idea to sell the plants to pay for a cruise to New Zealand, and they had made $25,000 over six weeks in January and February 2019.
"You said you grew the plants yourself and intended to sell them," Judge Pullen said.
"You were selling the plants because there was 'not much money on a pension'."
She said she accepted the prosecution's argument that Petherick was the principal offender.
"I accept you used a grow house building already in existence on the property, you did not build your own ... You either watered the plants by hand or, or occasions, connected a hose to the pre-existing watering system," she said.
"You had a plan in relation to the extra cannabis that you grew, and that was to make money.
"I accept you smoked cannabis occasionally to relieve pain."
Petherick, who had no criminal record, divides his time between living at Upotipotpon and on a boat at Port Adelaide and had to retire from his job as a shearer because of shoulder injury.
His barrister Charles Morgan had asked the judge to consider not sending his client to jail, saying the cultivation of cannabis was not sophisticated and he did not install the watering system himself.
Mr Morgan said Petherick's health issues included diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis, meaning he would be vulnerable if he contracted coronavirus in custody.
Judge Pullen accepted he had good prospects for rehabilitation and said although a sentence without jail time would not have been adequate, she reduced the sentence because of Petherick's health and good record.
Petherick, who had been released on bail three days after his arrest in February 2019, said "OK, thanks your honour" as he was taken back into custody.