The most impressive feature at Ronnie Bell’s ranch-style house is his indoor cannabis grow. His guest bedroom has been turned into a nursery, complete with a reflective grow tent. In the next room, there are many cannabis plants growing.
But growing pot has come at a price. In the past 24 years Bell, who served 21 years in the U.S. Marines and 21 years in the U.S. Postal Service, has been raided eight times and arrested seven.
“I’m just a peaceful farmer. I want to give this farm to my son one day,” Bell tells Los Angeles Times. His small grow acts as a source of income and supplies him with medicine to treat his back injury.
Bell is a resident of Anza, a town in Riverside County, California, with around 3,000 people. It’s a small town famous for weed where Bell is one of the many unlicensed cannabis growers.
Cannabis farms are important for small growers in Anza, where “the median household income sits at $41,200,” Edison Gomez-Krauss, a founding member of the High Country Grower’s Assn., which advocates for laxer cannabis cultivation laws, tells Los Angeles Times.
It doesn’t help that Riverside County officials have been conducting thorough raids. “In the last year, the Hemet sheriff’s station conducted or assisted in 31 raids, eradicating 163,704 plants and more than 41 tons of cannabis. Sheriff’s Sgt. Albert Martinez estimated $170 million in plants and processed marijuana were eradicated this year alone. The station will likely double 2019’s number of raids.”
As for the law, Bell is on the wrong side of it. Residents are only allowed to grow six plants, as for medical use, that number goes up to 12 plants. But he says his efforts to be part of the legal framework have been thwarted by the slow-moving bureaucratic process, as no permits have been granted to cultivators in the region.
“Admittedly our process is overly burdensome for the small growers,” County Supervisor Chuck Washington, who oversees Anza Valley, tells Los Angeles Times. “The licensing process by its nature … [is] bureaucratic. It becomes very expensive and out of reach. We haven’t figured out a way to manage that.”
For Bill, meanwhile, the grow is everything. “I’ve put everything I’ve got into this. We’re not trying to make a million bucks, I’m just passionate about this plant and the people involved with it.”