Legendary Emerald Triangle Freedom Fighter B.E. Smith Dies at 72
The Trinity County grower, who did time in federal prison for openly cultivating cannabis under California’s medical marijuana law, has passed away. His bold action put the U.S. Justice Department on the spot and helped change the conversation around medical pot.
Northern California’s legendary cannabis grower and audaciously outspoken activist Bailous Eugene Smith — universally known as B.E. — passed away at a hospital in Redding, California on Jan. 6, following complications from bypass surgery, according to family and friends. He was 72 years old.
Smith was born in Alabama, but came to California’s north country with his family while he was still a young boy. He did two tours of duty in Vietnam at the height of the war in the late ’60s, and came back to America suffering from PTSD. He initially turned to alcohol to cope, but soon “transitioned to pot,” in the words of his daughter-in-law, Rose Betchart Smith.
For a while, he worked as a tree-feller in the local timber industry. However, by the late ’70s, he became a real outlaw — joining a group of gold prospectors in the deep back-country of the remote and rugged Trinity Alps, living off the land in the wilderness. Although the U.S. Forest Service considered them trespassers, they claimed legitimacy under an 1872 mining law, which allows claim-staking on the public lands. The USFS admitted in 1982 that it had “lost control” of some 100,000 acres of Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
The outlaw miners were cleared out in a series of raids by Forest Service enforcement and National Guard troops in 1983 — a direct precursor to the militarized Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), which began immediately thereafter.
Published: January 10, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News