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Medical Pot Activist Enters Not-guilty Plea

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
RANCHO CUCAMONGA - When Lanny Swerdlow decided to attend a meeting in October of the Inland Valley Drug Free Community Coalition, he intended to hear the group's message and pass out fliers in support of medical marijuana.

Instead, the activist ended up in the back of a San Bernardino County sheriff's squad car, arrested for allegedly assaulting a guest speaker who denied him entry to the public event.

On Wednesday Swerdlow pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge.

Swerdlow insists he did not push the speaker, Paul Chabot, and was denied entry and subsequently arrested because of his stance on medical marijuana.

"It's so bizarre," Swerdlow said. "I can't believe they're going through with this nonsense."

The Inland Valley Drug Free Community Coalition was formed in August, and its Oct. 2 meeting at the Brulte Senior Center was its first.

Chabot, the meeting's guest speaker, is married to the coalition's president, Brenda Chabot.

When Swerdlow approached the sign-in desk before the meeting, Paul Chabot was standing at the entrance next to a man who recognized Swerdlow from a YouTube video supporting medical marijuana, Swerdlow said.

Swerdlow, a Palm Springs resident, is one of the region's leading advocates for medical marijuana. He hosts a weekly radio show, "Marijuana: Compassion and Common Sense," on KCAA-AM ( 1050 ).

Swerdlow was holding a box of pro-marijuana fliers when he walked into the event, and Chabot told authorities he was concerned for the safety of those attending because Swerdlow would not show him its contents. Swerdlow says he told Chabot it contained fliers on medical marijuana.

Chabot tried to deny Swerdlow entry to the event, and Swerdlow ignored him, stepping around him into the meeting room, according to Swerdlow and a witness, Victor Martin.

Chabot said Swerdlow pushed him with two hands before entering the event, according to a deputy's report. A witness, Mark Bradley, confirmed Chabot's account.

After the encounter, Chabot called authorities, and a sheriff's deputy arrested Swerdlow on battery charges.

Several other marijuana activists who also tried to attend the event were ejected.

"The people who were having the meeting, in my opinion, were basically going to lie, and they didn't want anyone to know the truth," said Dave Matteson, an Upland resident who regularly attends Claremont City Council meetings to lobby for a dispensary in the city.

Matteson and his wife, Darlene, were among those ejected from the Oct. 2 meeting.

The Inland Valley Drug Free Community Coalition issued an unsigned statement declining to comment on Swerdlow's battery arrest.

The coalition is opposed to all drug use, and as part of its platform opposes medical-marijuana dispensaries.

The group is seeking federal funding for its operation, according to its Web site.

Swerdlow says he "has a problem" with the group seeking federal funding because it seeks to undermine the state's medical-marijuana program.

"It's wrong to use federal tax money to arrest people for doing what is legally permissible under state law," Swerdlow said.

"And why an anti-drug group would want to get involved in this battle between state and federal law is beyond me."

Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Contact: letters@dailybulletin.com
Website: DailyBulletin.com - Home
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