Month: August 2012

Allison B. Margolin quoted in ABA Journal

On September 1 ,2012, Allison B. Margolin was featured by the American Bar Association: A Dope Niche: With State Law Changes, It’s Pot That’s Hot.

Full text reproduced below, original article by G.M. Filisko for the American Bar Association.

W. Michael Walz calls himself a pot lawyer. But he doesn’t represent drug dealers—and there’s a difference.

“I don’t defend people who are in business to make money,” explains the Phoenix-based solo who began specializing in marijuana cases in 1996 and launched the site PotLawyer.com in ’98.

“Those people carry weapons and sometimes are affiliated with organized crime, and I don’t have anything to do with them. Mostly, I defend mom and pop-type clients who may grow some and sell a little bit to handle tough financial times but didn’t set a financial objective of selling marijuana.”

Walz isn’t the only lawyer pushing his pot practice. “LA’s dopest attorney” is Allison Margolin, a partner at Margolin & Lawrence in Beverly Hills, Calif. She represents growers and distributors in cases related to the sale, production and transportation of marijuana. “We represent big-time dealers—or people who operate medical marijuana clinics,” she says. “People who are relatively smart realize they can run a marijuana-based business, but they have to do it through a medical contact.”

That’s because in California since 1996 and Arizona since 2010, weed smoking has been legal with an approved doctor’s recommendation; growing and dispensing is also permitted under certain circumstances. But use outside medical parameters can lead to harsh penalties. In Arizona, Walz says, possession of any amount of the herb is a felony.

Getting ribbed by colleagues comes with the territory. Since she’s open about lighting up legally, Margolin is sometimes the butt of digs from opponents asking whether she’s high. “But a lot of lawyers want to get into marijuana law,” she says. “Marijuana is a cash crop, and the marijuana economy is good. Marijuana defendants today are really the only people who can afford a defense.”

Both lawyers consider pot representation a calling. Margolin’s father, defense attorney Bruce Margolin, has advocated for marijuana law reform since the 1960s. She knew by age 12 she wanted to become a lawyer advocating for drug law reform. “My essay for getting into Harvard Law School,” she says, “was on the constitutional right to alter our consciousness.”

A HIGHER CAUSE

Walz joined the niche later in life. His first such case involved securing the release of a jailed AIDS patient who was starving to death. Smoking pot was the only way his client could beat nausea and keep food down—and that was, of course, a jail no-no. “The judge seemed more than willing to let him die,” recalls Walz. “She asked me what assurance I could give her that he wouldn’t continue to violate the law if she let him out.”

After Walz alerted local media, the prosecutor agreed to the prisoner’s release. He died about two years later at his mother’s home.

“I felt very good about what I’d done,” Walz says. “I’d been a criminal defense lawyer for many years and had represented child molesters and people like that. Eventually you’re going to be on your deathbed looking back on your career. I hope to be able to say I made society a better place.”

DEJ for 105 Pills of Oxycodone

People v. Oxy (2012) LAX

Client was apprehended mailing Oxycodone through the US mail service. She was pulled over after she had dropped off the package in the mail and was found to be in possession of marijuana and amphetamine. She was subsequently charged with transportation with intent to distribute Oxycodone, possession of controlled substances for sale, and transportation of marijuana. Margolin and Lawrence successfully negotiated a plea where client would plead to a simple possession and would undertake a deferred entry of judgment program. Client would have to enroll in a drug class and stay out of trouble for 18 months. If she is able to do this, her case will be dismissed and in the mean time no judgment will be filed against her.

Allison B. Margolin Featured On Anderson Cooper 360 Blog

 

Allison Margolin
Criminal Defense Attorney

Charles Lynch, a dispensary operator from Morro Bay, California, who was indicted and convicted in federal court for activities related to selling marijuana to medical patients, received a sentence last Thursday of a year and a day.

John Littrell, Lynch’s attorney, indicated that Lynch received what is known as the “safety valve.” This is a federal statute that allows for a defendant who is otherwise subject to mandatory minimum sentences to have a reprieve and be sentenced outside of them. In order to qualify for the so-called ‘safety valve,’ the defendant cannot be the “leader” of the organization. Littrell indicated the judge would issue a written order amidst objection by the U.S. Attorney to the safety valve in part on that basis.

He also indicated that Lynch was sentenced to 366 days in order to qualify for good time credits that would reduce Lynch’s sentence to around 10 months.

It is refreshing and fabulous that Judge Wu has liberally interpreted the safety valve to help reduce the prison exposure of a defendant who would have a medical defense in state court. Although the attorneys were precluded from mentioning the medical defense during Lynch’s jury trial, it is clear that his medical defense, though not technically available, motivated the court to sentence the defendant far below the 10-year-mandatory minimum that would otherwise apply to his convictions.

I believe that defense attorneys should use this case as well as USA v. Landa, 281 F. Supp. 2d 1139 (2003) , in which the district court contemplated compliance with state law as a basis for a downward departure in the guidelines (although that case lacked evidence of state law compliance), to argue that state law has a place in contemplating punishment when the state and federal law differ and the state gives more rights than the federal government.

I drafted a motion like this for Stephanie Landa on her appeal. For anyone interested, the argument is that the 10th Amendment is violated by the federal enforcement of marijuana’s Schedule I status in the medical states.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times Magazine published an article, “Obama’s Judicial Philosophy Analyzed,” by Charlie Savage, about what the author perceived to be Obama’s judicial philosophy and the one he believed Supreme Court justices appointed by Obama would follow.

The article suggested that Obama is interested in a court who articulates rights that many states (maybe a super-minority) have recognized, and pushes the other states along. That is why the recent legalization of medical marijuana in Rhode Island should be celebrated as a victory and replicated in more states.

Then we can use federal marijuana cases as a vehicle to go back to the U.S. Supreme Court and ask that the use of marijuana for medical purposes be recognized as a right that is held superior to the ban of the conduct by the Controlled Substances Act, the statute that regulates controlled substances and places marijuana in a category that has no medical use, Schedule I.

Editor’s Note: Harvard-educated Lawyer Allison B. Margolin is now a practicing criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles. She is often referred to as ‘L.A.’s ‘dopest’ attorney.

Read article on AC260 website.