NBC Launches Series Praising Pot Legalization

Perhaps in a effort to compete with CNN featuring live bong hits during its New Year’s Eve coverage and excited by California’s plan to legalize recreational marijuana in 2018, on Tuesday, NBC’s Today began a new series dubbed California’s Green Rush. In a promo that aired during the morning show, an announcer declared: “California’s going to pot. From mainstream delivery to pot luck dinners. In the New Year, the Golden State is turning green.”

In addition to that advertisement for the pot industry, correspondent Jacob Soboroff provided a four-minute report cheering the state’s new cash crop: “I am here, dressed weed chic, as they say, in a sterile green room at Medman, it is one of the largest medical marijuana dispensaries in all of California. With California becoming the world’s largest legal marijuana economy, they and others like them are looking to cash in.”

 

 

The segment began with Soboroff touring a illegal pot farm with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department. He noted how “Officials and investors hope California’s $2 billion medical pot industry will expand quickly and put the black market out of business.”

However, despite that optimistic prediction, on the December 28 NBC Nightly News, the reporter admitted:

In January California will become home to the nation’s largest legal pot industry. But the state’s black market weed will still be a far bigger business.... It’s estimated California produces eight times more pot than is consumed here. Most of that is trafficked across America. And today, could be up to 80% of the black market weed consumed in the U.S....Raids like this one will continue after full legalization because illegal growers are still cashing in.

The headline on screen emphasized: “Illegal Pot to Flourish, Even After California Legalizes.” None of those facts were mentioned in Tuesday’s report.

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Instead, Soboroff touted more rosy scenarios: “Researchers say legal pot could be worth as much as $5 billion this year.” He also talked to the biggest supporters of the policy shift: “In California’s Salinas Valley, Longtime cannabis activist and medical marijuana entrepreneur Steve D’Angelo is ready.”

“You’ve been waiting on this moment for a really long time,” Soboroff gushed. D’Angelo replied: “I have been working for and struggling towards this moment for my entire adult life.”

Strolling through D’Angelo’s marijuana greenhouse, Soboroff mused: “So to me, this almost looks like, I mean, you could be growing anything in here. You could be growing anything we might find in the supermarket.”

Despite all the fawning coverage, Soboroff did find one downside: “It’s hard to make it in the legal cannabis business....A 70% fail rate should strike fear into the heart of anyone investing in pot.” However, he added that “like California’s original gold rush, the prospect of getting rich on cannabis hasn’t stopped people from trying, at least not yet.”

Wrapping up the report, Soboroff reveled in the notion that even the Attorney General couldn’t block legalization: “Pot, of course, is also still federally illegal and has no fan in the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. None of that, though, as harshed, as they say, the legalization buzz out this way.”

Introducing the story, co-host Savannah Guthrie noted: “Supporters say this is going to be a boom to the economy, but there are critics, too.” None of those “critics” were included in the segment.

The one-sided coverage was brought to viewers by Microsoft, Quickbooks, and Whole Foods.

Here is a full transcript of the January 2 report:

7:41 AM ET

HODA KOTB: We're back with California’s Green Rush. The arrival of the New Year brought along with it the legal sale of recreational sale of marijuana in the Golden State.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And day one saw long lines. Supporters say this is going to be a boom to the economy, but there are critics, too. NBC’s Jacob Soboroff is Los Angeles for us. Hi, Jacob, good morning.   

JACOB SOBOROFF: Good morning, Savannah. Good morning, Hoda. Happy New Year and congratulations to you, Hoda. I am here, dressed weed chic, as they say, in a sterile green room at Medman, it is one of the largest medical marijuana dispensaries in all of California. With California becoming the world’s largest legal marijuana economy, they and others like them are looking to cash in.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: California’s Green Rush; Legalized Marijuana Could Take in $5 Billion]

This is how marijuana’s been traditionally grown for sale in California, in secret.

LT. MATT ALEXANDER [FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT]: So we have to get it out of here.

SOBOROFF: Lieutenant Matt Alexander of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department is part of a task force that targets illegal marijuana.

ALEXANDER: This is typical of organized crime.

SOBOROFF: So they’re losing a lot of money today?

ALEXANDER: Yeah, they are. Somebody’s not going to happy about this.

SOBOROFF: Officials and investors hope California’s $2 billion medical pot industry will expand quickly and put the black market out of business. Researchers say legal pot could be worth as much as $5 billion this year. In California’s Salinas Valley, Longtime cannabis activist and medical marijuana entrepreneur Steve D’Angelo is ready. You’ve been waiting on this moment for a really long time.

STEVE D’ANGELO: I have been working for and struggling towards this moment for my entire adult life.

SOBOROFF: So to me, this almost looks like, I mean, you could be growing anything in here. You could be growing anything we might find in the supermarket.

D’ANGELO: Yeah. You can grow cannabis in greenhouses that is equal or superior in quality to the cannabis that’s grown in warehouses and you can do it with a fraction of the carbon consumption. It’s also a much less expensive way, under the power of the sun. So this is the structural supports.

SOBOROFF: As D’Angelo works to increase cannabis production at his Salinas greenhouses, up in the Bay area, he’s working to convert his medical dispensaries to handle recreational sales. This location is almost like ground zero. How many more of these are you going to open across California?

D’ANGELO: We expect to have a statewide footprint within in three years. And we hope to be able to take this model out to the rest of the world.

SOBOROFF: There are even some economically-struggling towns hoping to turn their fortunes around with pot, like Desert Hot Springs.

GRETA CARTER: We have over 200 parcels that are zoned for cannabis.

SOBOROFF: Greta Carter runs a consulting group for cannabis businesses there. One of them is this facility. It cost $7 million to build, but the upside is almost priceless. $8,064,000 of cannabis every single year out of this one building.

CARTER: Your lips to God’s ears.

SOBOROFF: Just one building alone?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yup.

SOBOROFF: Desert Hot Springs has 60 projects just like it in the approval process. It’s already had an impact on property values.

CARTER: A couple years ago, they were probably purchased for around $60,000 an acre.

SOBOROFF: $60,000. And today?

CARTER: You’d be lucky if you could find one for $900,000 to a million.

SOBOROFF: But even while touring a recently approved project with clients, Carter acknowledges a harsh reality. It’s hard to make it in the legal cannabis business. You were saying a lot of people out here now are buying acres at a million dollars a pop. They’re not all gonna succeed.

CARTER: That’s true. Some of them won’t get their doors open. Other states show a 70% fail rate.
SOBOROFF: A 70% fail rate should strike fear into the heart of anyone investing in pot. But like California’s original gold rush, the prospect of getting rich on cannabis hasn’t stopped people from trying, at least not yet.  

Becoming a cannabis millionaire, guys, is not going to be easy. Los Angeles, San Francisco, have not yet launched their recreational sales. They are expected to soon. Pot, of course, is also still federally illegal and has no fan in the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. None of that, though, as harshed, as they say, the legalization buzz out this way, guys. Back to you.  

GUTHRIE: Alright, Jacob. And the hairnet is really working for you.

HODA KOTB: It’s top drawer.

SOBOROFF: Thank you. Thank you very much.

GUTHRIE: Happy New Year.         


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