A marijuana activist and comedian who has snubbed his nose at weed laws for years faces a slate of drug charges after allegedly organizing a massive marijuana market-party over the weekend.
Nikki Allen Poe, 37, is charged with possession with intent to deliver, conspiracy, intentional possession of a controlled substance, use and possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of an instrument of crime with the intent of recklessly endangering another person, according to court records. Those charges are misdemeanors. He also faces a felony charge of "causing or rising a catastrophe" for allegedly violating fire codes.
Police said the warehouse where the market-party was held "was a fire and safety hazard due to crowd size, use of butane torches and presence of only one entrance/exit."
Poe, born Rich Tamaccio, was jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail. Court records indicated he remained in custody early Monday.
Witnesses reported nearly 100 police officers raided the warehouse, where guests, including recreational users and patients seeking medical marijuana, paid $50 for entry to shop from vendors selling marijuana, edible cannabis products and other forms of the drug.
Police said they confiscated 50 pounds of marijuana, 100 pounds of "THC-infused edibles," $50,000 in cash and four handguns.
A police report said their "investigation of large-scale marijuana sales" ended with the arrests of 19 males and three females. About 175 people were released without charges, police said.
Poe has been arrested multiple times for his involvement in marijuana protests.
“This is the most serious charge he's ever faced,” said marijuana activist Chris Goldstein, who was at the party but was not arrested. Goldstein questioned the logic of narcotics officers raiding what he described as “a beer garden for marijuana” just blocks away from Philly’s most infamous open-air heroin and prostitution markets in nearby Kensington.
“I don’t think the public looks kindly on police spending our time and tax dollars essentially going to marijuana parties undercover,” he said. “I think they would rather they were spending their time doing more meaningful things like targeting heroin or drugs that kill, instead of drugs that heal.”
Poe had organized the post-4/20 "Philly Smoke Sesh" market at around 7:45 p.m. Saturday in a warehouse on the 4500 block of Worth Street in Frankford.
"We're doing this because marijuana is still illegal," one officer reportedly told Goldstein as officers entered the warehouse.
PPD Narcotics (name covered) said "we are doing this because marijuana is still illegal"— Chris Goldstein (@freedomisgreen) April 23, 2017
.@PhillyPolice raid of marijuana party tonight included undercovers who bought tickets, led by Narcotics and SWAT. Open talk of planning.— Chris Goldstein (@freedomisgreen) April 23, 2017
Poe's South Philly home was simultaneously raided. Police said the investigation is ongoing.
Poe was one of the faces of the marijuana legalization movement that successfully lobbied City Hall to decriminalize possession and public smoking of marijuana in Philadelphia in October 2014. Under the decriminalization statute, possession of up to 30 grams (one ounce) is punishable with a $25 ticket. Smoking in public is punishable by a $100 ticket. But police reported finding pounds of marijuana at Poe's party.
Nonetheless, Goldstein said the raid would not affect the movement for marijuana legalization.
“This kind of thing has been happening to the movement since the movement started,” he said. “If anything, it just proves our point, that marijuana should be legal. Poe would want nothing but for us to fight even harder as he’s facing such serious charges.”