Glen Stoddart, 53, of Mariners Point, Hartlepool, was caught in Swansea after travelling there with £250,000 of cannabis and later collecting £21,250 in cash.
He is now beginning five-and-a-half years behind bars after he was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs, money laundering and participating in activities of an Organised Crime Group (OCG).
Newcastle Crown Court heard he has an offer of employment waiting for him when he is released and that he had a good career before his "fall from grace" led to his involvement in drugs.
Jailing him, Judge Timn Gittins said Stoddart played a "significant role" in the conspiracy.
Five other men from South Tyneside and Willington, in County Durham, have also been locked up for more than 40 years in total.
Two more, from Liverpool and Slough, admitted their roles in the conspiracy and will be sentenced at a later date.
A ninth defendant, from South Shields, was cleared of any involvement in the plot.
The trial heard how members of the South Tyneside drugs ring joined forces with a Merseyside OCG to distribute Class A and B drugs to and from the region.
The complex North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) operation took more than a year between January 2017 and May 2018 to snare them.
Detective Inspector Steve Pescod said: “Thanks to this investigation, members of two organised crime groups, ranging from couriers to those leading the businesses, were brought before the courts and held accountable for their shameless and despicable offending.”