Police make marijuana party go up in smoke

Police said they made 22 arrests and let 175 others walk during the raid of a Frankford warehouse. They allegedly confiscated marijuana, cash and handguns.

Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspection evoked Oakland’s “Ghost Ship” disaster on Monday in describing the condition of a Frankford warehouse where police busted a marijuana party attended by hundreds of smokers and pot legalization activists on Saturday.


Police said they made 22 arrests and let 175 others walk during the 7:45 p.m. raid at 4562 Worth St., during which they allegedly confiscated 50 pounds of bulk marijuana, $50,000 cash, four handguns and about 100 pounds of “THC-infused edibles.” THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal psychoactive component of cannabis.

Court records show that one of the city’s leading pot activists, N.A. Poe, was among those arrested. Just last week, Philadelphia Weekly profiled the 37-year-old South Philly resident whose real name is Richard Tamaccio as part of its The Philly Effect series.

Poe did not mention the Frankford warehouse event during an interview for the article. L&I characterized the venue as a disaster waiting to happen.

“Inspectors noted that open flame had been in use at the event and that the party space had only one entrance/exit, putting the 200-plus guests and first responders at significant risk should an emergency have occurred,” the city agency stated in a news release. “L&I issued more than a dozen violations, the majority of which were for infractions of the fire code.”

Specifically, inspectors reported that fire alarm wiring had been cut; there was an accumulation of rags, paint, trash and other combustibles near sources of ignition; exits were blocked or locked; overhead sprinklers were damaged or broken; fire inspections were not current; torches were being used indoors; extension cords were hanging from the rafters and sprinklers; electrical boxes were exposed; fire extinguishers were missing; and fire safety signs were missing.

Further, the property is not zoned, licensed or certified as a host site for large parties, according to L&I.

The agency said it is “working to lessen the risk of Oakland Ghost Ship-like incidents from occurring in Philadelphia by inventorying and inspecting approximately 800 large vacant commercial properties across the city.”

Ghost Ship was the nickname of a 10,000-square-foot warehouse that had been converted into an artists collective in the California city’s Fruitvale section. People lived at the venue and held concert parties there. Last Dec. 2, about 50 people were attending a house music party there when a fire broke out and claimed 36 lives.

The 4562 Worth St. property is also listed as 2127 Gillingham St. Property records show the building covers 57,260 square feet over two stories. Authorities didn’t say how much of the space was being used for the marijuana party. A limited liability company, Gimmie Shelter, bought the property for $290,000 in 2004. The company’s mailing address is 528 Bainbridge St. in Queen Village.

Court records show that Tamaccio, aka Poe, was being held at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on Tuesday in lieu of $250,000 bail. He is charged with drug trafficking, conspiracy, causing or risking a catastrophe, drug possession, drug paraphernalia possession and related offenses.

Police did not disclose what prompted the raid. But the Associated Press reported that the event was advertised on social media as “Philly Smoke Session, Spring Fling, VIP event.” A Philadelphia magazine reporter wrote on his publication’s website Saturday night that he attended the party, as did hundreds “intent on buying medical-grade marijuana, pot-infused brownies and chocolates that will get you really, really high.” The reporter wrote that he left the party about a half-hour before police arrived.

While in City Council, Mayor Jim Kenney introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana. Then-Mayor Michael Nutter signed the measure into law in October 2014. Under the law, possessing a small quantity of marijuana (anything under 30 grams) may result in a citation and a fine, rather than an arrest. Possessing a larger quantity of marijuana or selling any quantity is still treated as a criminal offense. ••

William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.