After raid of pot party, Mayor Kenney says Pennsylvania should legalize

Mayor Jim Kenney is pictured here at City Hall in Philadelphia, in this Thursday, June 16, 2016 file photo. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Mayor Jim Kenney is pictured here at City Hall in Philadelphia, in this Thursday, June 16, 2016 file photo. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Philadelphia police say seven people are still in custody after 22 were arrested on Sunday following authorities raiding a warehouse hosting a “smoke-easy” marijuana party in the Frankford section of the city. 

Police say they confiscated 50 pounds of pot, four handguns and 100 pounds of gummy bears laced with THC.

Members of the police department’s narcotics and SWAT teams descended on the Northeast Philadelphia factory along with the Department of Licenses and Inspections. City officials worried that some attendees using butane torches in a building that had just one exit presented a fire hazard. 

On Monday, Mayor Jim Kenney called the response excessive.

“Probably there was another way to play it off, as opposed to the amount of resources that were put into this,” said Kenney, noting that he did not know about the raid before it occurred. “Especially considering our on-going relationship with that community.”

Among those arrested was marijuana activist N.A. Poe, a backer of Kenney’s successful 2014 effort to decriminalize small amounts of pot when Kenney was a member of City Council.

To police, however, the event, which drew nearly 200 guests and charged $50 at the door, looked like an illegal narcotics sale in a potentially dangerous facility. 

Kenney said the raid is a symptom of a what he sees as a larger problem: that recreational marijuana usage has not been legalized across Pennsylvania by lawmakers in Harrisburg.

“The real solution to this is legalizing it in Pennsylvania, as they did in Colorado,” Kenney said. “We won’t have to use police resources in these types of activities and these kinds of actions.”

Possessing less than 30 grams of pot in the city is punishable only with a $25 fine. Being caught smoking in public can trigger a $100 civil fine.

But selling marijuana, and possessing large quantities, is still a criminal offense.

WHYY’s Tom MacDonald contributed to this report 

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