Woman cleared of marijuana charges Supporters picket Carroll courthouse

June 11, 1993|By Darren M. Allen and Traci A. Johnson | Darren M. Allen and Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writers

Imprisoned marijuana-rights activist Pamela Snowhite Davis is used to losing almost every time she appears before a Carroll County judge.

But yesterday, Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. acquitted the 48-year-old Westminster woman of the four most recent drug charges filed against her by the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force.

"Thank God!," said the shackled Davis -- a self-proclaimed "old hippie" -- before she was escorted out of the courtroom by a sheriff's deputy and two prison guards.

Davis was acquitted yesterday on charges of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession of marijuana, conspiracy to distribute marijuana and maintaining a common nuisance. The charges stemmed from a November raid of Liberation, her Westminster counterculture store, when the task force seized several pounds of marijuana seeds.

The basis of the task force's case was that the seeds germinated in state police crime laboratory. One of the state's key witnesses, a police chemist, told Judge Burns that the

seeds germinated and that they likely would grow into marijuana plants.

Judge Burns said he wanted more if he was to return a guilty verdict.

"The issue here is the presence of marijuana," the judge said in rendering his verdict after the daylong bench trial. "To really prove whether the seeds were sterile or fertile, why weren't the seeds taken to soil so we could see if it would grow?

"There is no proof here that marijuana existed."

Davis testified that she believed the seeds she sold in her shop were sterile.

Faint cheers could be heard from the gallery, which was packed with Davis supporters.

During the trial, some of those supporters picketed across Court Street from the courthouse. Some of the protesters -- from the Washington, D.C.-based pro-marijuana organization Green Panthers, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Davis-founded Americans Against Marijuana Prohibition -- carried banners demanding Davis' release from jail.

She was convicted in March of four drug possession and distribution charges in a case that stemmed from an undercover delivery of marijuana to her home. Part of her defense was that the drugs belonged to her son, but authorities seized marijuana in her bedroom as well.

Davis is serving a two-year sentence in state prison for a felony conviction on a charge of maintaining a common nuisance. That charge stemmed from a May 7, 1992, raid on her Silver Run farm, which netted about 1 ounce of marijuana and drug

paraphernalia.

Outside the courthouse, the protesters were jubilant when they heard that Davis had been acquitted of the latest charges, but she remains behind bars, and they called that an injustice.

Self-proclaimed anarchists and a drug policy maker stood together in the 90-degree heat waving signs that demanded Davis' release.

Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation in Washington, D.C., argued Davis had received "an absurdly excessive sentence" on the common nuisance charge.

"This is clearly a perfect example of political persecution," said Mr. Sterling.

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