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May-27-2013 12:12printcomments

A Case of Irresponsible Journalism

Redding CA's KNVN News Team Bites the Hand That Feeds Them.

Disputed land in Santa Rosa
Marijuana growers have helped property values come up, now the media turns against them?

(SANTA ROSA, CA) - They called the piece, "Rancho Tehama's Growing Pot Problem." Right from the start, in their weak effort to get a quirky title in, they irresponsibly create a negative image of the legal cannabis farmers that are actually the majority of this now growing community.

A few senior citizens who have lived there for several decades, while the community decomposed, have decided that they would suddenly complain about the medical cannabis farming that is popular in the area, and say that the growers are somehow "bad." The Homeowners Association who has neglected to enforce the CC&Rs for decades has suddenly found something they have decided by whim to selectively enforce. The area has previously been known for old dilapidated mobile homes, crime, and meth manufacturing. The HOA had allowed yards to become literal junkyards. Real Estate agents would often tell me when looking at local real estate, "I'll leave Rancho Tehama out of the search, you don't want to look there, do you?"

The local news team took to immediately demonizing the growers. Not one grower was interviewed. I actually know many of the growers in that community who are mostly very friendly, neighborly people and who look out for each other. There's no extravagant wealth, or flashy cars. Its just regular people, trying to pay rent and feed the kids. Its a kind of plain community, really. I feel safe driving around there.

Holes in the ground were described as "suspicious." A hole in the ground is only suspicious if it has a body in it. Otherwise its just a hole in the ground. What a reach. The news team drove around while a man standing in the back of a pickup truck peering over people's privacy fences with a camera took pictures of these holes in the ground. A man told me he had his picture taken while standing in his yard in only his underwear. Now that not only seems suspicious, but quasi-legal. There's nothing suspicious about growing marijuana in California. Actually, it might be more suspicious if you're not.

For those of you who don't know, California is the nation's largest agricultural food producer, with a yield of around $40 billion dollars, annually. Cannabis production in Northern California exceeds that by perhaps, another $20 billion. That's a $60 billion dollar economic contribution to the state and its residents. Can anyone say Sales Tax?

How does this play out? The money created from cannabis grown in California, ends up at Home Depot, Safeway, Raley's, ACE Hardware, Taco Bell. From grocery stores to hardware stores and restaurants. From local to national companies, the money is spent locally. It keeps single moms employed. Literally. If it wasn't for cannabis, Northern California would look like Flint, Michigan. No disrespect to those experiencing hard times in Flint, but if cannabis was as big there as it is here, it would look much different.

You used to see lots for $2000.00, that had sat there for 15 years, unsold. Where in California can you find land that cheap? Now lots are starting at $15,000.00, and people are finally buying them. Cannabis farmers are doing the beautification and development that the HOA never wanted to tackle. Property values in Rancho Tehama have skyrocketed, and owners and tenants are finally making property improvements that have been generations overdue. The supplies are purchased locally in nearby cities like Red Bluff, Redding and Corning.

One grower, an asian woman who spoke with broken English, decided to make flyers for a May 28th, meeting with the sheriff. The flyers looked almost as if they were made by a child. She passed them out and posted them everywhere. "I'm just a mom", she said. "I don't know about printing and stuff. I just know I can't give up. I can't turn back now. I have to do this." The cannabis she will supply to her extended family members will pay her rent. California's "just compensation" law allows her to be compensated for her time, effort and investment, without making a profit. "I have sick family members who will pay me to grow for them, they can't do it, so why not?" She will not be applying for social services from Tehama County, the State of California, or any kind of welfare for that matter. "I'm too proud. I'm gonna feed my kids with my own hard work."

As a local news broadcaster, KNVN receives its sponsorships from companies like Tri-Counties Bank, a local bank. Cannabis is a boon to local banking. Perhaps proof is that Dutch agricultural Rabobank has arrived recently on the scene. What are the Dutch famous for? Cannabis; and making it into a huge industry. They are poised to take the lead in cannabis banking and even discuss loans for medical cannabis gardens on their website when addressing banking ethics. Guess what? They say a loan for a medical cannabis garden is ethical. Shocking.

The point is that KNVN is alienating not only their sponsors who rely on cannabis money, but the entire culture of Northern California. Cannabis money buys police cars and fire trucks, and paves roads, and pays the salaries of first responders who save lives every day. There's not a public official or public servant, or person, who doesn't have a cannabis grower or user in their family or circle of friends. We are known the world over for our high quality cannabis. Why don't they report on that?

How about a story on a community that is turning around because of the blood, sweat and tears of it's local cannabis farmers. That would be inspiring.

Demonizing the heart and soul of Northern California, is just plain irresponsible journalism.

Disclosure: I am a land use consultant, retired grower, and land owner in Rancho Tehama. In the 7 months, that I have been working out there, I have seen dramatic changes. There's still a lot of work to be done, but those growers are out there and willing to do it.

    Phil Northcutt is combat veteran of the Iraq war and a former infantry Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. He is an agriculture student at Santa Rosa Junior College, and works as a veterans advocate connecting veterans in need to the resources and non-profits that assist them.

    He has experience as a music promoter, television and mobile media producer with a background in printing. Phil is an outspoken advocate of medical cannabis for veterans with issues of Post Traumatic Stress.

    We at are extremely happy to add Phil to our staff of writers, many of whom are combat veterans, and allow a place for his strong voice that has already made a difference for many. Phil is our first writer who is a combat veteran of the Iraq War.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.