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

Marijuana activist N.A. Poe smokes a joint on Independence Mall in February 2015. Poe, whose real name is Rich Tamaccio, and 21 others were arrested Saturday night when police busted a marijuana party he organized in Frankford.

Mayor Kenney said 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 Licenses 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, a building in California with various code violations where a fire 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 following an unrelated 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 had successfully lobbied Kenney when he was a councilman to get the possession of small amounts of marijuana decriminalized in Philadelphia.

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

According to court records, Tamaccio 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 percent to be released.

A call to Tamaccio's lawyer 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, as was done in Colorado, Kenney said.

"We won't have to use police resources in these kinds of activities and actions," he said.

Kenney was unaware that 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 "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.

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

L&I workers were still investigating to determine exactly how many citations will be issued and to whom. The building's owner, identified by the department as Gimme Shelter LLC, will receive the bulk of the citations, but the party hosts may face some 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 quickly."