Seattle is obsessed with drug deaths. And we should be—1,001 people died from overdose in King County last year. Everyone is heartbroken and everyone wants it to stop.

Or at least our current politicians say they do. The solutions we’ve heard are insufficient, especially the ones that involve further criminalizing drugs and hiring more cops. They’re not very “data-driven,” to borrow one of their backers’ favorite buzzwords. 

Data shows that people do drugs regardless of how much we criminalize drugs. Data shows the war on drugs was a failure. Data shows that imprisoning people with a substance use disorder puts them at a much higher likelihood of overdose when they get out. Data shows that, when we set up a “treatment or jail” scenario for drug users, who ends up where is heavily affected by racial bias.

More importantly, what data shows is that if we are genuinely concerned with saving lives, then we know what we need to do. We need safe consumption sites and safe supply immediately.

The Government of Canada reports that from 2017-2022, there were over 47,000 overdoses or drug-related medical emergencies in their safe consumption sites. Not a single one of them resulted in death. Not one!

If our politicians want to save lives, then they would follow the science. Instead, they’re doing what is easy and wrong instead of what’s hard and right. 

I think much better of my future constituents than that. I think they’re smart enough to know the drug war needs to end. I think they’re smart enough to see that we need a radically different approach. In fact, many of them are hard at work here in District 3 doing it themselves, handing out Narcan and other harm reduction supplies.

Many D3 candidates support harm reduction, as well as safe consumption sites. But one of the reasons I’m in this race is because none of them are willing to stand up for what is right: legalizing, taxing, and regulating all drugs.

Safe supply is a truly great, lifesaving program, but in Canada it is typically a prescription requiring a diagnosis of substance use disorder. I want to facilitate a drug supply chain that is safe from its base ingredients to its end users.

We need to take control of the entire drug economy away from illicit actors. If you really care about stopping the cartels and the harm they do, you undercut them, and you do it with a better, safer product.

I believe that no one should do any drug in this country that is not regulated and tested. I also believe it’s okay to let people do drugs. We currently allow people to do all sorts of drugs that can kill them, such as alcohol, the drug that Council Member Sara Nelson manufactures and sells. But we give consumers the basic safety information they need to navigate the experience. Alcohol, like fentanyl, is surely responsible for a lot of negative behaviors, but we have plenty of laws that target that behavior without jailing all drinkers and forcing them to make furtive deals for bathtub gin.

Another really, really important reason to legalize drugs is that we need the money. Our city needs to create real treatment options, completely revamp our infrastructure, make transit free, expand our subsidized child care programs, lid I-5, build an insane amount of social housing on that lid (and elsewhere), stand up a civilian public safety department, and rapidly create space for our unhoused neighbors to exist. That’s going to cost a lot.

While I’ll push to get as much of it from Amazon as we possibly can, legalizing and taxing drugs in Seattle alone could raise a colossal amount. Our back-of-the-envelope calculations, based on the most recent RAND study drug consumption and assuming a 22% excise tax on illicit drug sales, would net us somewhere from $300-500 million per year.

While I think I’ve made the case for why we should legalize drugs pretty clear, there’s one more big question here: How?

The first step would be getting an ordinance through the city council and our current mayor. Not an easy task. But an oft-neglected part of being on council is being loud. You can’t just write good policy, you have to publicly advocate for it. You have to talk to the media, hold rallies, educate the public, and create the narrative around it. Sometimes you have to push your fellow council members into doing the right thing. That’s totally doable, and I’ve done it before. I’m not afraid to do it again.

Besides that, there’s the small matter of federal preemption. The federal government hasn’t managed to de-schedule or even slightly reschedule cannabis (it’s currently on Schedule 1, alongside heroin and bath salts), despite it being legal in over half the country. The idea that they will do so with cocaine because little old Seattle legalized it seems laughable, I’ll admit.

But back in 2011, when we drafted the first laws to allow medical cannabis dispensaries, promising to put the weight of the city attorney behind them, the feds didn’t rush in. They let us run our experiment, and what an experiment that turned out to be. We changed our city and the world for the better.

I’ve tried to avoid being “that weed candidate who wants to legalize drugs” because I have so many more ideas about how I can serve this city. But in this case, I’m absolutely that weed guy. I helped write those laws. I got to watch something take shape in our lifetimes that so few believed was possible. 

That’s how we need to govern. We can’t be scared of progress. We can’t study group and task force things to death. We knew cannabis was safe; we knew patients needed medicine; we knew cannabis prohibition was unjust and racist; and we wrote policy that reflected that knowledge. The same is true of other drugs. 

We know what we need to do. I, for one, am ready to do it.