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Pot plants land Derry Twp. man in prison

Rich Cholodofsky
| Sunday, May 13, 2012, 3:31 a.m.

A Derry Township man who claimed he grew 259 marijuana plants in the woods behind his home for research was sentenced Wednesday to serve nearly two years in jail.

Robert K. Kubena, 58, was convicted of four drug offenses by Westmoreland County Judge Debra Pezze in a nonjury trial. Kubena was in court yesterday for his sentencing, where he faced a mandatory term of 2 1/2 to five years behind bars.

But on the recommendation of Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck, Pezze gave Kubena a slightly lighter sentence that requires he serve the entire two years, meaning he won't be eligible for parole.

Pezze also sentenced Kubena to serve five years on probation once he is released from jail. Kubena was allowed to remain free on bail while he considers an appeal of his case.

Pezze previously had found Kubena not guilty on one count of possession with the intent to deliver the drugs, which was a proper verdict, Peck said.

"It appears to be a case where he was growing it, but there was no evidence of distributing it," Peck said.

Kubena was arrested July 23, 1999, after police stormed his property and found the marijuana plants growing in a densely wooded area behind his home. Another 2.75 pounds of marijuana and some drug paraphernalia were found in the home.

Authorities were alerted to the marijuana initially when a police helicopter en route to Punxsutawney on an unrelated assignment spotted the plants on Kubena's property from about 500 feet in the air.

Police were dispatched to the Derry Township home, went into the woods with machetes and harvested the crop before searching the home.

According to court records, Kubena admitted to growing the marijuana but told police he did so for his research.

Kubena holds a doctorate in behavior and physiological pharmacology and did his post-doctorate thesis on THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

He told police he has researched marijuana on a full-time basis for the last six years, according to court records.

Authorities never calculated the worth of the drugs, and Peck said yesterday that usually one pound of useable marijuana can be cultivated from each plant. But the plants harvested from Kubena's property were smaller than usual and probably would not have netted one pound per plant, he said.

In June of 2001, Kubena had a letter to the editor published in the Tribune-Review in which he opposed a syndicated column that favored keeping marijuana illegal.

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