Just Dope: A Leading Attorney’s Personal Journey Inside the War on Drugs

North Atlantic Bks. Aug. 2022. 285p. ISBN 9781623176860. pap. $16.95. SOC SCI
With its double entendre title, lawyer Margolin’s book aptly has two sides. The daughter of a famed criminal lawyer and herself a cannabis law expert (who calls herself “LA’s dopest attorney”), Margolin discusses her own recreational drug use as well as the American war on drugs broadly. She argues that a just legal treatment of drug use or possession should not primarily punish those who aren’t like her (white, affluent, Ivy League–educated), and she examines the false dichotomy between “good” (pharmaceutical) and “bad” (illegal) drugs. She also presents a footnoted argument that decriminalizing drug possession could broadly benefit U.S. society by justly treating drug use as an issue of health, not crime. The more memoiristic aspects of the book describe Margolin’s father, her child custody fight, and her battles with prosecutors and judges. It also detours into a graphic account of the life and death of actor River Phoenix. The book has an engaging style and is structured like a trial presentation, but whether readers vote in Margolin’s favor depends on their own views of drug decriminalization, as she doesn’t offer enough specifics. For her next book, Margolin should look to countries like Portugal for practical examples of decriminalization.
VERDICT For readers who enjoy drug war memoirs mixed with policy commentary.
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