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A north Queensland court has heard how some members of a “close-knit small family group” from Mackay grew more than 8,000 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of $20 million.

Appearing in the District Court in Mackay today, Anthony Lindsay, 38, pleaded guilty to a raft of charges including producing and trafficking drugs.

He was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison and will be eligible for parole in March next year, given time served since his arrest.

“I should have known it was a stupid thing to do,” the father of three told the court.

The court heard the 38-year-old was involved in cultivating the large-scale crop at Calen, north of Mackay, between November 2018 and May 2019, when he was arrested.

Police discovered the crop as part of an investigation into drug trafficking in the region.

cannabis crop surrounded by bush land
At the time of Lindsay’s arrest in 2019, police said the owner of the land where the crop was grown was unaware his property was being used.(Supplied: Queensland Police Service)

Defence barrister Paul Rutledge said the drug operation was not a highly-sophisticated interstate organisation.

“We’re not dealing with Italian organised crime … it was locally produced selling to a local supplier.

“It’s still serious, but it’s not in that sort of category.”

Mr Rutledge said his client’s reasons for being involved in the crop were simple.

“The mine sites took him away from his family, and from his perspective he did not seem to be getting ahead financially,” Mr Rutledge said.

He said Lindsay had admitted to him he had “messed up big time”.

A Google Maps find

The expanse of cannabis was concealed in bushland at Calen and police said the landowner was unaware it was being used to grow cannabis.

Judge Paul Smith told the court how Lindsay came to find what would be the site of the crop.

A photo of a large crop of cannabis surrounded by bushland, taken from above.
The large-scale crop was found in bushland at Calen, about 55km north of Mackay.(Supplied: Queensland Police Service)

Judge Smith said the crop was the subject of an extensive police operation which included telephone intercepts, undercover officers, and targeted searches.

“You were the principal targets of a police operation targeting the trafficking of cannabis in Mackay,” the judge said.

“Police executed a search warrant and located 8,089 plants across four plot sites. They were a fair size, some of these plants.

“The estimated value was about $20 million.”

Not the first time

Prosecutors argued for a sentence of seven to eight years, telling the court Lindsay was convicted for producing cannabis in 2013.

“It can only be said his offending has escalated since then, producing not only a larger crop but also selling the drug,” Crown prosecutor Samantha O’Rourke said.

“It’s a serious example of a cannabis business.

In sentencing, Judge Smith said he took into account Lindsay’s cooperation during interviews and willingness to give information about the local supply chain.

Court proceedings for other family members accused of drug offences are yet to be finalised.

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