Facing jail term, Carroll woman defends her right to 'puff hemp' 'What harm have I caused anybody?'

April 28, 1993|By Tom Keyser and Darren M. Allen | Tom Keyser and Darren M. Allen,Staff Writers

Pamela Snowhite Davis smokes marijuana. And she doesn't care who knows it.

"I puff hemp," she says. "If the Department of Justice down to the cop on the street can't relate to that, then I'm sorry."

Definitely, the law-enforcement community in Carroll County has had trouble relating to that.

Davis, an outspoken advocate for the legalization of marijuana, has been arrested twice on drug charges -- the first for less than an ounce of marijuana in her bedroom, the second for marijuana seeds displayed in her Westminster clothing store.

She was convicted last month in the first case and faces sentencing today in Carroll Circuit Court. Her second trial is scheduled June 10.

She could be sent to jail today for six years.

"If I go to jail, so be it," she says. "That's society's choice. I can't be responsible for the ignorance and stupidity of society."

Davis is 48, thin and wears blue jeans and a denim jacket with a booklet containing the U.S. Constitution stuffed into her breast pocket. As her pet ferrets slink across the floor of her northern Carroll County farmhouse, she says in a raspy voice: "You're talking to an old hippie, honey."

She says she conceived her first child at Woodstock. She says she once got high with Janis Joplin.

She and her husband operated "head shops" in Philadelphia and Ocean City, N.J., during the 1960s and '70s. For two years in the late '80s they traveled by motor home on tours with the Grateful Dead, selling her beaded jewelry in parking lots.

"Life has been fun," she says.

Since her arrests she has become an activist for the legalization of marijuana, at least for medicinal use.

She has transformed her West minster clothing store, Liberation, which is something of a modern-day head shop, into a soapbox for her emotional, sometimes grating, political discourse for an end to marijuana prohibition.

In the process she has rankled not only the police, but also the store's landlord and her bank. Her landlord is trying to evict her from the Westminster Shopping Center, and her banker has decided not to renew a line of credit that may result in the loss of her farm.

"I know everybody thinks I'm pesky and annoying," Davis says. "And I'll plead guilty to being pesky and annoying.

"But how can it be a crime when I smoke marijuana in my bedroom, which is on the second floor of a 21-room house that sits in the middle of 54 acres, a quarter of a mile from my nearest neighbor and 12 miles from East . . . Nowhere?

"What harm have I caused anybody?"

The mayor of "East Nowhere," which would be Westminster, is W. Benjamin Brown. He is not amused.

"It's a shame some people have to be convicted in a court before they realize the laws apply to them," the mayor says. "We have community standards here. If we aren't prepared to uphold those standards, then we might as well say good-bye to our community."

The lawyer for the Westminster Shopping Center says Davis' activities threaten the fabric of local life.

"This is a family shopping center," says J. Barry Hughes, the lawyer, "and we think that her activities might deter families from coming here and shopping."

He says Davis has every right to express her opinions.

"But she doesn't have the right to espouse them on my client's property," he says.

After her arrests, Davis founded Americans Against Marijuana Prohibition. She's held meetings in her store. She's also put up signs in the window, such as:

"The owners and managers of this store believe that marijuana should be legal. If you are a member of the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] and would arrest a fellow citizen for marijuana use, possession or sale, we request that you leave the premises. If you would not, please feel free to identify yourself as a friend."

The police have acted as if they have a vendetta against her, she says.

"That's a lot of poppycock, frankly," says Barton F. Walker III, the assistant state's attorney who coordinates the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force. "No one is persecuting her. We're just doing our jobs. She ought to finally accept responsibility for her own actions."

Davis was arrested the first time after a police officer dressed as a United Parcel Service worker delivered an ounce and a half of marijuana to her farmhouse last May.

Carroll police officers had intercepted the package, addressed to the Davis farm, after a tip from a California sheriff's deputy.

Davis, who was not home at the time, says the marijuana was for her 22-year-old son, Kif, the Woodstock baby. He has "puffed hemp" since he was 12, she says. Until then he was hyperactive; marijuana calmed him as no prescribed drug could, she says.

Her son eventually pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana. But during the raid, the police searched the house and found less than an ounce of marijuana in a night stand in Davis' bedroom.

They charged her with four drug crimes. In her trial last month she was convicted of three: maintaining a common nuisance, possessing marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.