An Ocean County judge Friday sentenced an Atlantic County man to eight years in state prison for growing marijuana in the Pine Barrens.
Jon Peditto, 54, of Mays Landing maintained throughout his October 2015 trial in Toms River that he grew the 17 marijuana plants found by police in Tuckerton in 2012, according to a NJ.com report.
Authorities also found more than three pounds of marijuana in his home, APP.com reported.
Peditto was charged with maintaining a drug production facility, possession of marijuana and two counts of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He was ultimately convicted of operating a marijuana production facility and marijuana possession but acquitted of intent to distribute marijuana.
Judge James Blaney sentenced Peditto, who represented himself during the trial, under second-degree offense guidelines and not first-degree stipulations that called for a sentence of up to 20 years, according to an NJ.com report.
The judge commented that Peditto’s outbursts during the trial appeared to be from the effects long-term marijuana use had on his cognitive functions, the report said.
In a video of the sentencing posted by APP.com, Louis Esposito, Peditto’s attorney during the sentencing, said that Peditto likely smoked more than he sold “by a long shot,” adding that his client was “toked up during the whole trial.”
During the sentencing, Peditto said marijuana smokers are peaceful.
“All of you need to learn a lot more about marijuana, because the laws certainly do not reflect the reality of the country you live in where tens of millions of people as we speak now are doing it freely and peacefully in this country without any interference from judges, prosecutors, law enforcement of any kind,” he said, adding that “we are the most peaceful people in this country and that will never change regardless of the sentence I get.”
Blaney called Peditto’s defense “short-sighted, inept, reckless, and fool-hearted.”
Peditto must serve one-third of the eight year prison term prior to parole eligibility.
During his trial, Peditto said prosecutors were making him out to be a pot tycoon but really he’s just a gardener trying to cultivate a better strain. He said the marijuana was for his own use and that he would occasionally sell it to family and friends in order to supplement his income.
He sought a jury nullification defense in the hopes that the jury would acquit him on the basis that he should not be punished for the act, despite admitting growing marijuana, because the law is immoral or wrongly applied.
“How can they put this guy in prison knowing others are making money and being treated with it!” said marijuana activist Edward Forchion, better known as “NJ Weedman,” in October.