It’s a bright multi-colored chaos hurricane in Allison Margolin’s living room. One right after the other, a cellphone buzzes, a landline phone rings, and the doorbell chimes. It’s a client, another client, and a friend returning the dogs after a walk. A chocolate lab and a shepherd-coyote-wolf mutt burst in through the front door and spin the platinum cookie smoke, freshly exhaled from a wax-frosted bong rip, into a whirlpool in the air while they yap and scuffle around the kids’ mini ball pit and swing set, past mom and dad’s toy chest: a dream collection of high-end glasswork by JOP, Darby, Mothership, everybody.
Calm and in the eye of this twister is a young attorney, her hair down and wearing comfort clothes, sitting cross-legged on the ottoman like the Buddha on his lotus. She texts on her cell while talking on the home phone pinched between her ear and shoulder. “Just don’t let them in! Don’t let them in!” she advises a client who’s in what sounds like (she won’’t discuss ongoing cases in detail) a fairly urgent pickle.
Margolin’s a machine of multi-tasking and time management. It’s noon and she’s between her morning in court and her afternoon volunteer gig at the bagel shop in her daughter’s school. In that short window, she’s conferring with a handful of clients and her law partner, giving me an interview, and getting high. We’re about to go to a Beverly Hills salon so we can continue our interview while she gets her hair done. Her schedule is so condensed that she’s having two clients meet her at the hair place too. She carries three or four conversations at the same time, all of them extremely intelligent, fast-paced, and chock full of legal terms and precedent citations. As soon as she gets off the phone, we jump seamlessly back into talking about her background.
“LA’s Dopest Attorney,” as she’s suavely branded herself and her firm Margolin & Lawrence, is a Renassance member of the cannabis community. She’s a premiere criminal defense lawyer, a lecturer and associate professor, a graduate of Harvard Law and Columbia, and a contributor to the LA Times and Anderson Cooper 360, among other news outlets.
Margolin’s made a name for herself in medical marijuna cases and represented clients in the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Medical marijuana cases, she says, are almost always winnable. Currently, her partner Raza Lawrence and her are representing a man charged with sharing marijuana profits with doctors in Santa Clara. The defense in medical pot cases, Margolin says, is mainly about establishing collectives as legit non-profit businesses, doing paperwork, and subpoenaing doctors and accountants as experts. “The challenge is usually the other parties involved. It’s just a pain in the ass. Some motherfucker judge or… the prosecutor and then maybe a jury, dealing with the participants. Those are the things that are unique every time… medical marijuana cases in particular.”
She’s brought nine marijuana cases to trial, and only one of them ended in a felony conviction. Another couple dozen never even made it to trial. “Our shit is the best,” she says of her firm.
Extraction cases have been giving her a lot of work lately. She says they now make up over 50% of her business. “That’s actually much more fun for me… If you have the equipment and trim and a bunch of wax (at the scene of a bust), then you have to try to come up with something more creative… Your client is charged, but what evidence is there that they live there? Like, is the landlord really going to testify? If they do then they can get in trouble. I’ve never even seen a landlord testify. What evidence do they even have that the person is doing it? Just because it’s there and they’re there, there could be fifteen people there. Maybe they’re just chilling, smoking or whatever.”
And what’s her legal advice to extractors? “Stay away from butane cans. That’s the number one thing.” If nothing at the scene acutally says “butane,” it can go a long way for the defense.
What else? Keep your name off the lease of the blasting site, have a non-profit collective, be a certified caregiver, and never send product across state lines. Oh, and get a lawyer. “Not me. I can’t advise, because then I can’t represent them. It’s a conflict.”
Margolin doesn’t just represent people charged with making concentrate. She is concentrate. The T-1000 of stoners. Type A and focused, whle still giving off those chilled-out Cali Kush vibes. It’s people like her who probably have the best chance at changing the hypocrosies and anachronisms that marijuana law is steeped in.
She’s upset by what she calls a “conspiracy of laziness” in the judicial system. People get arrested because they have pot, and by the time the cops and district attornies figure out that the guy or girl with pot wasn’t committing a crime, it’s too much work to stop the machine that’s been put in motion. So caregivers can go to jail just because no one in the D.A.’s office cares enough to do their job right – unless they have a good lawyer.
“I quit gymnastics at nine to do this,” she tells me. “I’ve been working on this plan since I was twelve.” And what is that master plan? “To end the drug war.”
Top photo (the good one) Courtesy of Paul Wellman/The Santa Barbara Independent
This feature will appear in Dabs Magazine Issue #1, coming this June