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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — At first glance, it looks like an ordinary ranch in the desert east of Los Angeles. There are horses, a pigpen, and a pack of dogs barking to signal the arrival of outsiders. The family here once farmed tomatillos, but tucked away in a corner of the property they’ve recently added three greenhouses with a more lucrative crop: illegal cannabis.

It’s harvest day and a half dozen workers cycle in and out, puffing joints and listening to music as they chop down the plants and hang the bud-laden branches out to dry. The proprietors say most of the product is headed out of state, where street wholesale prices are higher, but there’s still enough local demand that the top-quality stuff will stay in-state, undercutting a fledgling legal market beset by criminal activity. 

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