Pot use activist to close store Marijuana views rankled landlord

July 27, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

The Westminster Shopping Center is giving Pamela Snowhite Davis and her counter-culture shop Liberation until Labor Day to leave, according to court papers and attorneys involved in the case.

Even though rent hasn't been paid for the store since May, attorneys for the shopping center and for Davis are expected to sign an agreement this week allowing the 48-year-old marijuana-rights activist to keep Liberation open as long as she pays rent for August and the first week of September.

"We're not interested in being unfair, and we want to permit her to stay so she can liquidate in an orderly fashion," said J. Barry Hughes, the Westminster attorney representing shopping center owner Washington Real Estate Investment Trust.

Davis had never missed any of her $1,500 rent payments until June, when she was in jail and her husband failed to pay, court records and attorneys said. She was released on bond June 24 pending the appeal of her March conviction on felony drug charges involving less than an ounce of marijuana.

She said she decided the rent money could better be used for her legal defense fund.

"I'm done paying rent until my freedom papers are paid for," she said yesterday, referring to the more than $15,000 she expects to pay for the appeal of her drug conviction.

Should she fail to pay rent from Aug. 1 through Labor Day, Washington Real Estate Investment Trust is armed with an eviction order signed Friday by Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr.

Yesterday, Mr. Hughes said that if rent is not paid, his client will evict her before Labor Day.

"You simply can't stay in a tenant situation unless you pay rent," the lawyer said yesterday. "It's that simple."

The June and July rent will be reduced to a judgment against Davis, Mr. Hughes said.

When the Westminster Shopping Center began eviction proceedings against Davis in January, owners sought to kick her out because she used Liberation as a soapbox for her pro-marijuana views.

A jury trial in the eviction had been scheduled to begin next month, but her failure to pay rent made the case much simpler. Judge Burns' order giving the shopping center the right to evict canceled the need for a jury trial.

Yesterday, Davis said she wasn't sure where she would open a store at the conclusion of her "Going, going, gone to pot liquidation and relocation sale."

"I'm looking at places here in Carroll County all the way down to Baltimore," she said, adding that her preference is to remain in Carroll. "I like it here, I live here. But I must say that I do have a deep, abiding contempt for [the drug task force and state's attorney's office] and of the system they represent."

Davis was an unknown Westminster businesswoman until May 1992, when the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force raided Terrapin Station -- her 80-acre Silver Run farm -- after a police officer, dressed as a United Parcel Service employee, delivered a package from California addressed to the farm. The package contained 1.5 ounces of marijuana.

In the raid, officers found less than an ounce of marijuana in Davis' night stand, some pro-marijuana literature and a water pipe.

Since the raid, she has sued the task force and begun using Liberation as a forum for espousing her pro-marijuana and anti-drug-war beliefs.

In November, the day before she was to represent herself at a jury trial on the UPS charges, task force members raided her store. They found several pounds of sterilized marijuana seeds, and charged her with maintaining a common nuisance, possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute it.

In March, prosecutors presented the pot, the water pipe and the literature seized in the UPS raid to a Carroll jury, which convicted her of maintaining a common nuisance, a felony, and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr., who presided over the trial, imposed a five-year sentence in the case April 28 and suspended all but two years. He told Davis her lack of remorse and defiance of the system played a role in the sentence.

She was acquitted in the seeds case June 10.

Judge Beck twice denied an appeal bond for Davis in the UPS case until her attorneys -- Stephen P. Bourexis and Judith S. Stainbrook of Westminster and William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr. of Baltimore -- filed for one in Anne Arundel County, where Davis was incarcerated. Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Bruce C. Williams released her on bond June 24.

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