Man faces court for $70m pot haul

AN Inglewood man producing marijuana on an "heroic scale" could serve up to 15 years in jail.

Michael Bennett Gardner Sr was the central figure in a large-scale "sophisticated and elaborate commercial venture" with eight cannabis crops on a mountainous property with rocky gullies.

When police arrested the 58-year-old in mid-2008 they found all but half a crop had been harvested.

Police found 22,000 plants weighing 51.9kg and 3.59 tonnes or harvested marijuana.

The black market value of what was left amounted to almost $70 million.

Gardner is facing sentence today in Brisbane Supreme Court after pleading guilty to drug trafficking between 2004 and 2008.

Crown prosecutor Michael Lehane said Gardner recruited his young family, children aged 11-14, to plant seedlings and tend to thousands of plants when they should have been at school.

He said Gardner had an arsenal of weapons, including 10,000 rounds of live ammunition, to protect his crops.

Mr Lehane asked the court to consider a sentence between 13 and 15 years.

"The trafficking was extremely extensive over many years, involving extraordinarily large amounts of cannabis," he said.

"The venture was a very profitable one.

"(Gardner) was not addicted to cannabis.

"He was clearly the central figure in all the important aspects of trafficking from the selecting of seedlings to the distribution of the crops and the receipt of money."

Justice Roslyn Atkinson is expected to hand down a sentence today after Gardner's defence makes submissions.



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