TWO of Rusty’s Markets’ most loyal stallholders for more than 20 years had some explaining to do when police found 320 cannabis plants along with the rows of capsicums and carrots.
Mareeba farmer Niguel Antequera, 61, and his wife Narella, 54, were jailed for 12 months, wholly suspended for three years, after pleading guilty in Cairns Supreme Court yesterday to producing the massive crop in a locked room at the back of their shed.
The court heard the couple, already competent farmers, decided to try their hand at growing marijuana after building up a $150/week dope habit between them buying the drug to relieve pain: hers from arthritis and his from an ankle injury he suffered in a truck accident.
Defence barrister Derek Kordick said the Antequeras used all their existing equipment, including a drying rack for capsicums, and started growing cannabis hydroponically on trays with irrigation, lights and fans.
“They just utilised what they had,” Mr Kordick said.
He said an earlier attempt at growing the plants in soil in a different spot on the farm had failed, with many of them dying, so they had moved the operation indoors.
“They simply grew a lot because they expected a lot of the plants wouldn’t make it,” Mr Kordick said.
The total weight of plants found was almost 6kg.
But Crown prosecutor Shauna Rankine said the large number of plants suggested a commercial operation.
Justice Stanley Jones said he accepted the crop was for the couple’s personal use only.
“There may have been some commercial intent but it was a long way from fulfilment … and a long way from having a saleable product,” Justice Jones said.
By Margo Zlotkowski