Cannabis farmers in a poor California town want to go legit; instead, police crack down

Ronnie Bell smokes cannabis oil in his living room

Ronnie Bell’s prized possessions aren’t the collectible toys or bongs that clutter his ranch-style house. What the 65-year-old values most is his extensive indoor marijuana grow.

Bell’s “bachelor pad” features a guest-bedroom-turned-nursery with a reflective grow-tent. There are racks of marijuana plants in the next room. This farmer, who served 21 years in the U.S. Marines and 21 years in the U.S. Postal Service, is one of many unlicensed marijuana cultivators in the unincorporated township of Anza.

Over the 24 years Bell has grown marijuana, he has been raided eight times and arrested seven. When he was arrested in May, Bell said, he suffered a torn rotator cuff. His old friend, marijuana, made the pain bearable.

Ronnie Bell smokes cannabis oil in his living room

Ronnie Bell smokes cannabis oil in his living room. The drug helps with back pain and a shoulder injury he suffered when deputies twisted his arm, Bell said.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

In the Inland Empire, Anza, population about 3,000, is a small place with a big reputation — when it comes to weed. If you smoked it and it didn’t come from a legal source, many locals said, it might well have come from Anza. Drive into town and it seems impossible to run into someone who can’t point you to a…

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