Alex Cooley, the co-founder of Seattle-based cannabis producer Solstice, wants to represent the people of District 3 on the Seattle City Council–just like everyone else.
He distinguishes himself from the pack with a platform that includes legalizing (not just decriminalizing) all drugs, creating state-park inspired sanctioned encampments for unhoused people, and making bars close on a rolling schedule.
In an interview with The Stranger, Cooley said he’s grown weed for 20 years, turning a hobby into a career after graduating from college into a recession.
The Seattle Times called Cooley a “pioneer in legitimizing the pot industry” because of his work on cannabis policies at the state and city levels. Now, he wants to propose policies to legalize the production of, the sale of, and the use of all drugs—from ‘shrooms to heroin.
Cooley argued people both responsibly and irresponsibly use drugs all the time. He went as far as to say the City operates in “de facto decriminalization” because “no one’s gonna brother you for having a couple grams of cocaine.” But current prohibitions on producing and selling drugs also prevent the City from making sure drug users get safe products from licensed producers and dealers. Plus, the City misses out on a shit-ton of tax revenue that he said could pay for housing, homelessness services, and beds for mental health and addiction treatment.
Going out on a limb here, but even if he can sell other electeds on his angle, he’ll probably run up against the argument that the City would get in trouble with the federal government, which won’t even let cities open safe injection sites.
It will take a great deal of political will to convince the council, the Mayor, and all the prosecutors to forge ahead without blessings from the feds, but Cooley thinks he can present “the facts” to prove that legalizing drugs improves lives. After all, he said he used his powers of persuasion to push his weed policies through even with strong opposition from then-Council President Bruce Harrell.
One Million Square Feet of Housing
Cooley committed to building one million additional square feet of homes, including affordable housing, tiny shelters, and sanctioned encampments.
The City has sanctioned a few tent cities, and Council Member Andrew Lewis called for 10 more. But Cooley offered a specific vision. He wants the sanctioned encampments to look like a state park: Tents, bathrooms, picnic tables, and even a fire pit.
Some unhoused people say they want to live outside, but usually so they can stay in their current home and keep their belongings and sense of autonomy. Cooley’s not advocating to sanction or add picnic tables to existing encampments to give people that option. Rather, he wants the City to build new camps on public land, contract a nonprofit to manage some of them, and bring people over from their encampments as another onramp to permanent housing. Sorta like a tiny shelter village without walls.
He’ll fund his housing goals by increasing the city’s “JumpStart” payroll tax, taxing drugs, and crossing his fingers in the hopes of the State instituting a progressive income tax after the state Supreme Court overturns rulings barring that from happening. He’ll have to cross them pretty hard.
Policing the Police
As far as public safety goes, Cooley said basically the same thing everyone says: Police should be the last resort, we need a “third leg” in our public safety response, and you don’t need a gun to respond to a mental health crisis.
As for the existing police force, he wants to pay for better training for the Seattle Police Department. And he wants to ask the State to end qualified immunity, which protects cops from accountability when they violate civil rights. Rep. My-Linh Thai (D-Bellevue) is attempting to work around the federal court system’s totally invented rule with a bill to let victims sue cops for violating their state constitutional rights.
Cooley would pay for his public safety priorities by asking the feds for money (if they still like Seattle after he tries to usurp their drug laws lol), finding a new progressive revenue stream such as a vacancy tax, or diverting police funds.
He Sounds Progressive, but His Voting History Sounds ... Different
So far, seven people have announced a campaign to take over Council Member Kshama Sawant’s long-held seat, which represents the voices of the Central District, Capitol Hill, and Madison Park. There’s so many people in this race that Cooley is the second weed-grower. (Like Joy Hollingsworth, he sells to Uncle Ike’s; but unlike her, he doesn't do so exclusively.) He’s also the second Alex! He’s still the only candidate with gauges, though.
It's a little early to get a firm grasp on which candidates will go for business support and which want the labor endorsements. In Cooley’s case, he was very forthcoming about hiking up the JumpStart tax on big business, but he’s not turned off by business-backed politicians. He voted for Harrell for Mayor in 2021 and Egan Orion over Sawant in 2019.