Police Raid 'Smokeasy' Marijuana Party in Philly

By Victoria Kim 04/25/17

Twenty-two people were taken into custody during the raid this past weekend. 

Woman exhaling a plume of smoke against a colorful background.

Friends of the cannabis activist who was arrested Saturday night for organizing a large smoke session are none too pleased with the Philly police—whose SWAT-style raid they say was an insult to human rights and civil liberties. 

A group of people gathered outside police headquarters on Sunday to protest the arrests of Rich Tammaccio, the organizer, and dozens of attendees.

The Philly Smoke Session has been going on for years now without a problem, say attendees Chris Goldstein, a Philly.com columnist, and Mike Whiter, a Marine Corps veteran. According to the Philly Inquirer, attendees paid a $50 cover for the event, where they bought, sold, traded or shared buds, edibles, and oils.

Goldstein, who is involved in local efforts to reform marijuana laws, likened Saturday’s raids to those during Prohibition. “They basically just did a speakeasy raid—a ‘smokeasy’ raid,” he told the Inquirer. “Here we are, back in the heyday of Prohibition.”

It certainly seemed over the top, from how they describe it. “The SWAT team came busting in and told everybody to ‘get their fucking hands on the wall’ until they realized there was not enough wall space, so they had us sit down and put our hands on our head,” said Whiter, who gets relief from marijuana for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The police then went around to each attendee with a bag and offered amnesty if they gave up their weed, then searched everyone before they were allowed to leave. Goldstein and Whiter say there were at least 100 cops involved.

While the police were raiding the event, they also hit Tammaccio’s home. All in all, they seized 50 pounds of cannabis, $50,000 in cash, four handguns, and 100 pounds of marijuana edibles.

Tammaccio, Goldstein, and Whiter were instrumental in getting Philly leaders to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis in the city. Goldstein believes the raid was about targeting Tammaccio, who, along with his girlfriend, has been charged with seven offenses including drug conspiracy and public safety charges. However, police say the focus of their investigation were “large-scale marijuana sales.”

Philadelphia decriminalized up to 30 grams of cannabis in 2014. Possessing more than that is still considered a criminal offense, but those possessing 30 grams or less are given a fine of $25.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr