Evan Neumann swears he does not have a green thumb and that the marijuana he's been growing since March inside his home near Railroad Square is no big deal.
He says it tastes so bad that for flavoring he puts lemon peel slices in the plastic bags used to store the marijuana buds he smokes to treat his bipolar condition.
Whatever the quality, Santa Rosa narcotics detectives and agents with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration targeted his home Friday. They busted open his front door, ordered him and his roommate to the ground and then broke up Neumann's marijuana-growing operation.
Neumann, 35, was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale and cultivation of marijuana.
Neumann, who received his license to use medical marijuana in February, said he was learning how to grow marijuana with an eye on perhaps selling to local cannabis clubs.
It is the latest venture for Neumann, the son of Claus Neumann, former longtime owner of Los Robles Lodge. The younger Neumann used to manage Hotel La Rose and is a former president of the Historic Railroad Square Association.
Depression set in after he broke up with his fiancee a few years ago, he said, and he has been taking prescription medicine ever since. Some of the medications cause severe headaches and migraines and marijuana helps him deal with the pain, he said.
"I never thought I would be targeted by law enforcement," he said. "To be honest, my biggest fear was a home invasion."
According to a police statement, officers served a search warrant on Neumann's home Friday and found 179 marijuana plants and 1 pound of processed marijuana packaged for sale. The statement said they also found 6 pounds of processed marijuana being dried, as well as cultivation equipment, digital scales and packaging material.
Police said the 7 pounds of marijuana had a potential street value of $28,000, and the plants had the potential to produce marijuana with a street value of $358,000.
Police were not available Saturday for further comment on the raid.
Neumann scoffs at the projections. He admitted that he probably was growing more plants than he was allowed by his medical marijuana license. But he swears he is not a criminal.
"That's a joke. It's just absolutely a joke," he said. "The marijuana that I had that was processed was about 10 to 14 ounces."
He said that about 90 of the plants were tiny "clones" he was nurturing in plastic Dixie Cups on his roof and that he was likely to kill half of them.
"I've killed every single plant that I've grown," he said. "I'm just not very good. There's a lot of steps you have to go through before you can sell to a club. The first step obviously is growing something the clubs will buy."
Neumann's roommate, Jenn Kernan, a friend who recently moved back to Santa Rosa from New Orleans, said she couldn't believe what happened Friday morning.
"I was about to open the door when they broke it down," she said. "The entire hallway was filled by men with big guns, scary, big guns, automatic weapons. I sank down to my knees. I was holding my dog in my hands."
Neumann swears that he's never sold marijuana to anybody, and that he was only looking at the possibility of becoming a cannabis club grower.
The whole ordeal has shaken him up. "I wouldn't want true criminals to go through that," he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or email@example.com.