'Not at all believable': Jail time for drug suppliers
IT ALL started with a seemingly innocent invitation for a beer at the Nimbin pub to discuss a potential earner - with an illicit twist.
But it ended with seven men facing multiple year sentences for the commercial drug supply of almost 70kg of cannabis.
Today in Lismore District Court two of the men were sentenced - one a "cleanskin" with no serious criminal record - to more than three years in jail for their offences.
Nimbin father of three Clinton Scott Ellis, 62, and Zachariah Treloar Kay, 43, were paid for a simple but criminal job.
They were told to sit at a table and trim the heads off hydroponically grown cannabis with scissors before it was cryo-vacced for commercial sale.
That was where police found the two men on June 23 last year when they raided a four-bedroom home on Kyogle Rd at Mt Burrell.
Underneath the home, they found scores of plants in various stages of cultivation.
In the living areas, they found pairs of scissors, a cryo-vac machine, several barrels of cannabis leaf offcuts, and a ledger book with each man's name written neatly alongside dollar figures.
The ledger revealed the men's piecemeal for their work - at a rate of $200 "per pound" of cannabis trimmed.
In total police seized almost 68kg of cannabis with an alleged street value of around $750,000.
Kay and Ellis both pleaded guilty to the charges of commercial drug supply.
At Kay and Ellis' sentencing hearing in Lismore, Judge L Wells said the "evidence was conflicting" whether the men were aware in advance that when they were invited for a "few beers and a barbecue" at the property (during an earlier gathering at the Nimbin Pub) that they would end up participating in a serious criminal enterprise.
But the two men had been at the property on five or six occasions in the previous two weeks before the raid.
Judge Wells concluded that "each of them, despite their denials and hesitation, knew from the first day the nature and extent of the operation".
She said it was "not at all believable" the pair didn't realise they were participating in a large-scale commercial drug packaging operation, but in fact their involvement was "deliberate and pre-meditated".
"The contribution they made was an essential part of [the enterprise] to sell large quantities of cannabis in the local community," she said.
Judge Wells noted 43-year-old Kay had lived in Nimbin since he was 10 and was a casual labourer.
He "regretted his behaviour" and was a "good person who can be trusted and is generally respected".
He stared glumly at the floor as he was sentenced to three years and four months in jail, with a non-parole period of one year and 10 months thanks to special circumstances of his lack of serious prior convictions.
Ellis was not granted the same non-parole leniency.
References stated the father of three was an "active parent" who had contributed to his three children's upbringing, and was involved as a volunteer fire fighter in his local bush fire brigade.
But he had previously spent time in jail for a prior conviction for the enhanced cultivation of cannabis and Judge Wells said the court then had clearly come to the "incorrect conclusion" that he was likely to rehabilitate.
He was sentenced to three years and four months in jail, with a two-and-a-half year non-parole period.
He will be released on parole in March, 2019.
Kay will be let out in July 2018.