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"Or we can vote for a law that's gibberish. Because Proposition 19 is so badly drafted, no one knows what a post-19 California will look like."
Many people argue that the smart thing to do to reduce drug consumption and crimes associated with drug use is to follow Hawaii's lead: Identify drug addicts among felony probationers, drug-test them, and send them to jail for a few days every time they test dirty.
"Works like a charm," Kleiman says. "It cuts down on drug-use crime and jail time."
But on the other side are supporters who, while conceding that Proposition 19 is plainly flawed, think its passage will force the courts to bring forth the big societal changes Margolin has been fighting for.
David Bearman, M.D., is a member of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine and was medical director for 14 years at the Santa Barbara Regional Health Authority, now called CenCal Health, in Goleta. He's been practicing for 42 years, currently performs pain management and thinks marijuana, like any pharmaceutical drug, should be considered a therapeutic option.
Bearman says he seethes when he thinks about the harm caused by absurd marijuana laws and attitudes, specifically to the rights promised in the Constitution. He thinks Proposition 19 would solve many ills.
"Should 19 prevail in lawsuits that are sure to follow, we'll have a new day, because drug laws have been used in a policy of fear. Implementation of 19 will pull back the curtains on the fearmongers who use fear as a mechanism to infringe on our constitutional rights. Because of a politics of fear, we have ceded our constitutional rights and privileges to the police. People are afraid. My favorite bumper sticker reads, 'I love my country. It's my government I fear.'
"While Proposition 19 is not perfect, people should vote for it because enough is enough in terms of crumbling the Constitution and putting people in jail for something that's innocuous. Thomas Jefferson said, 'If people let government decide which food and medicine to take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as the souls of those who live under tyranny.' "
Back in the 1970s, after he'd been defending pot smokers for a couple of years, Margolin was burned out. Following a soul-searching conversation with Baba Ram Dass — the former Harvard professor Richard Alpert, who wrote the seminal book Be Here Now — Margolin left L.A. law to study Hinduism in India.
He came back committed to the pot wars.
"My Indian experience proved that representing people is valuable, moral and true service. If you want to experience God, serve people. It's what I have to offer."
Lunch is over. Margolin is returning to his office to see his next client, who is upset that the cops who busted his West Los Angeles grow house won't return his plants.
Margolin rushes through his office's front door, next to a window decorated with a custom-made stained-glass panel depicting the pot-leafed logo for NORML.
He gives a quick introduction to his daughter Allison, who began billing herself on her website as "L.A.'s Dopest Lawyer" after graduating from Harvard Law. She's following in her father's footsteps. But how will things work out for them if Proposition 19 passes, and there's a dearth of weed-bust clients to defend?
"I could make a lot more money doing other kinds of legal work," Margolin says.
Not to mention, legalizing personal marijuana use surely will cause another legal specialty to flower: ganja law.
And Margolin and his daughter are poised to rule that niche. He can see problems erupting between cities and citizens, between growers and distributors, between governmental agencies.
"Defending people against ridiculous pot laws is an opportunity to serve my brother," he says. "I'll retire when the drug war is over."
Margolin heads into his office, passing by a metal sculpture of Sancho Panza. Panza is trailing his master, Don Quixote, and hanging his common-sense head while Quixote rushes on to tilt at windmills.