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Friday, September 20, 2013

Marijuana Protesters Making Narcotic Cops, Anti-Drug Warriors Paranoid

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 2:04 PM


On Monday, narcotics officers and anti-drug crusaders are scheduled to gather in the Inland Empire for the first-ever "Marijuana Policy Conference," a powwow aimed at weakening the devil weed's grip on our society.

But 72 hours before the convocation, exactly where they plan to gather is unclear.

A group of unwelcome guests -- pro-cannabis activists -- have pledged to protest the proceedings, which are supposed to be at a city-owned convention center in Rancho Cucamonga.

Or are they? On Friday, an e-mail blast purportedly from conference organizers says that the convention has been moved at the last second because of "hostile" and "dangerous" "radical drug legalization groups."

A new location is in the works and will be announced late Sunday. Or will it? Marijuana activists say this last-minute venue change is a trick aimed at putting them off the scent.

Pot is certainly making someone paranoid.

The organizer of this weekend's policy conference is Paul Chabot. Chabot -- who says he went to rehab at age 12 for alcohol and marijuana addiction -- is a seasoned drug warrior and Tea Party-type. He's enlisted the California Narcotics Officers Association as a co-organizer of the two-day conference, which comes a few weeks after the federal Justice Department signaled acceptance with state-legal weed as long as it was regulated.

The guy behind the protest is Lanny Swerdlow -- and Swerdlow, who organizes the local pro-pot Brownie Mary Democratic Club, has a history with Chabot.

We'll get into that in a second. But for now, the smoke and mirrors. A number of marijuana advocates had purchased tickets to the conference -- and each of them had their money refunded and tickets canceled, Swerdlow told SF Weekly. They weren't welcome.

Undaunted, Swerdlow and activists called a protest for Monday outside the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center in Rancho Cucamonga, where attendees would be greeted with shouts and signs.

Friday's email blast, however, announced a last-second venue change. Here's some excerpts, under the heading "Pot Protest Threatens Kids and Event Safety."

Do not show up to Victoria Gardens - a hostile pot crowd will be there and they have threatened to get themselves arrested. Due to the nature of our peaceful conference, and many children who are registrants, we are forced to make this decision.

It has also been brought to our attention that one of the key protest organizers has been investigated for child pornography. He is a concern to us all. We will discuss his investigation that originated in Oregon in 1998 and hope to discuss this with the media as well.

The drug legalization crowd is well known for being hostile and at times outright dangerous. The many videos found on you tube [sic] by pot groups, including the shooting at a Denver pot event earlier this year is yet more proof of the radicalization of these anti-social individuals who lack common sense, patience and restraint.

SF Weekly placed calls to Chabot at several of the Inland Empire-based organizations he runs. Nobody returned our calls. A San Francisco police spokeswoman could not immediately say if any SFPD officers would be attending -- and a woman who answered the phones at Victoria Gardens could not say if the conference was still on.

Changing venues a few days before an event where several hundred people are expected is a logistical feat -- but Swerdlow says it's all a ploy. The e-mail blast went out only to weed activists who registered for the event, he told SF Weekly.

In other words, it's a trick played by Chabot to thwart a protest.

"This is so childish," Swerdlow said via phone on Friday. "This is what little kids do."

It bears mentioning that Chabot and Swerdlow have a history. A few years back, Chabot called the cops on Swerdlow at another drug conference Swerdlow was protesting. Chabot accused Swerdlow of pushing him -- and the San Bernadino District Attorney prosecuted him, Swerdlow says.

He was acquitted at a four-day trial, and has since sued Chabot for making the whole thing up, he said.

Another thing: the kids. A reason to keep the protesters away are the children -- but what children are attending a police officers' conference on a Monday and Tuesday?

That's probably bullshit, too, Swerdlow said.

"What are children doing at a conference torpedoing marijuana initiatives?" he asked. "Are they going to be taking children out of school to go to this thing? I don't think so."

Forget not that law enforcement has to date been given the most credit for thwarting medical marijuana regulations in Sacramento. A last-ditch effort a few weeks ago to pass statewide regulations in the Legislature was beaten back after furious lobbying from the California Narcotics Officers' Association.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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