The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has, for the second time, reversed the marijuana possession conviction of Pamela Snowhite Davis, the "Marijuana Mama" who has fought a three-year legal battle with state prosecutors in Carroll County over less than an ounce of pot.
The appellate court reversed Ms. Davis' convictions on charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, ruling that Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. erred in allowing prosecutors to present Grateful Dead concert tickets, a copy of High Times magazine, a pro-marijuana poster and other written material as evidence during her 1993 trial.
"Although the state is entitled to introduce evidence relating to Davis' knowledge or intent that she possessed marijuana or paraphernalia, it may not penalize Davis for her beliefs concerning marijuana legalization," a three-judge panel of the state's second-highest court wrote in an opinion issued Monday.
"There is simply no conceivable way that the concert ticket stubs or posters are at all relevant to the issue of whether Davis specifically intended to possess marijuana or paraphernalia," the panel said.
A Carroll jury had originally convicted her of maintaining a common nuisance and the misdemeanor paraphernalia and marijuana possession charges. Judge Beck sentenced her to six years in prison; she served 56 days before an Anne Arundel County judge freed her pending an appeal.
The Court of Special Appeals last year overturned the common nuisance conviction, and sent the misdemeanor charges back for reconsideration with an invitation to Ms. Davis to appeal again if they were upheld by a Carroll judge.
Ms. Davis was jubilant yesterday about the decision.
"I was really overjoyed that the court ruled so decisively," she said. "They took a strong stand for the freedom of speech, for freedom of political beliefs. I just hope we can now just put this whole horrible issue behind us."
Although the appellate court sent the case back for retrial, Carroll State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes has not decided whether to retry Ms. Davis, his spokeswoman said yesterday.
Ms. Davis' six-year sentence for less than an ounce of marijuana catapulted her into the national spotlight. She was dubbed the "Marijuana Mama" by the press.
Before that, she was an unknown Westminster businesswoman who operated a counterculture clothing shop in a local shopping center. She became an outspoken advocate of marijuana rights after the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force entered her life.
In May 1992, task force officers, carrying a search warrant and wearing United Parcel Service uniforms, delivered a package addressed to Terrapin Station, her farm outside Westminster. When a woman there signed for the parcel, which contained 1.5 ounces of marijuana, the bogus UPS men marched in, seizing magazines, business records and about three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana from Ms. Davis' bedroom.
After her trial and brief prison stay, she left Carroll County -- which she called "evil" -- for the Mount Vernon area of Baltimore, where she owned Marijuana Mama's Baltimore Hemporium. She has since sold the business.