Mayor questions police resources used in pot party bust; L&I to issue citations

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Mayor Kenney said on Monday that the amount of police resources used to bust a pot party at a Frankford warehouse Saturday night “may have been a little overkill.”

Meanwhile, the city’s Department of Licences and Inspections is preparing numerous citations for what department spokeswoman Karen Guss said were “pretty serious” fire, licensing, and zoning violations at the party site.

“It’s not that long after that Ghost Ship experience in Oakland and this is a similarly dangerous situation,” Guss said, referring to the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in California that claimed the lives of 36 people in December. “We’re not against fun but we don’t want people to burn to death.”

Kenney addressed the marijuana raid during a news conference Monday at City Hall. The organizer of the pot party — comedian and marijuana activist N.A. Poe, whose real name is Rich Tamaccio — was one of two men who successfully lobbied Kenney when he was a councilman to get small amounts of marijuana decriminalized in Philadelphia.

Poe and 21 others, including his girlfriend and father, were arrested during the bust. Police said another 175 people were released.

According to court records, Poe has been charged with possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance, causing a catastrophe, possessing instruments of a crime, and related offenses. His bail has been set at $250,000. He must post 10% to be released.

A call to Poe’s attorney was not immediately returned Monday.

Police said they confiscated 50 pounds of marijuana, 100 pounds in THC-laced edibles, four guns, and $50,000 in cash during the raid.

Kenney said “It’s clearly illegal to sell in those quantities.” But he quickly added that there may have been “another way” to go about the situation, “as opposed to the amount of resources that were put into this, especially considering our ongoing relationship with that community.”

The real solution is legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania like they did in Colorado, Kenney said.

“We won’t have to use police resources in these kinds of activities and actions,” he said.

Kenney was unaware the police were going to conduct the raid but said he heard it took two months to plan. He called the building where the party was held “very dangerous.”

“To set it up when it is illegal and to set it up in a building that is dangerous, you’re going to get that kind of attention,” he said. “I just think the amount of resources that were put into it may have been a little overkill.”

A Police Department spokesman declined to comment on Kenney’s statements.

Guss, the L&I spokeswoman, said the department was not part of the initial police raid, but authorities did call L&I investigators to the scene after they entered the building.

According to Guss, the building’s fire alarm did not work and the sprinkler system was inoperable. The warehouse is also not zoned or licensed for assemblies or parties, she said.

“This building is not zoned or licensed for anything that was happening there,” she said.

L&I workers are still investigating to determine exactly how many citations will be issued and to whom. The building’s owner, whose identity the department is currently trying to verify, will receive the bulk of the citations but the party hosts may face some too for not having a special license required for parties, Guss said.

“We really urge people not to go to these parties, it’s really unsafe,” she said. “Hopefully nothing will happen … but if something does happen it goes from a party to a death trap really quick.”

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