Two bedroom-size growing rooms for marijuana – each with 12 plants more than 6 feet tall -- were found in the Warren Avenue Liquor Mart building during the investigation into the fire there on Tuesday morning, Sept. 3.
Police also found 24 seedlings growing in the basement of the building on the corner of Warren Avenue and Lyon Avenue.
The discovery of the growing rooms has led to a charge against the third-floor tenant, said Sgt. Diogo Mello of the East Providence vice squad, which handles narcotics investigations.
Shanika Dodge, 23, of 64 Lyon Ave., has been charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.
Dodge has a caregiver’s license from the state and one patient, said Mello. She could legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.
But police found about 4.5 pounds of the finished product in her apartment in glass jars, Mello said.
“As you can see,” said Mello, “she was way over the legal limit.”
The second-floor tenant also has a caregiver’s license for one patient, Mello said. But police only found 2.5 ounces of marijuana in that apartment, the legal limit for a caregiver. She was not charged.
The number of seedlings growing in the basement also is within legal limits for caregivers, Mello said.
“That is in compliance,” he said.
The marijuana growing rooms, which required a significant amount of electricity, are believed to be tied to the cause of the fire, according to East Providence Fire Marshal James Bellamy.
It was definitely an electrical fire, Bellamy said. An overloaded and unsafe electrical system in the building may have gotten wet from the heavy rain that fell overnight.
“We’ve run into growing rooms in the past,” Bellamy said. “To do it successfully, you need to be an electrician.”
One of the three electric meters in the building also was turned off in March, Bellamy said.
The disconnected meter could lead to a misdemeanor charge of theft of electricity against the landlord, said Mello, but that situation is still being investigated by another detective. No charges were filed as of Thursday afternoon.