It felt surreal watching Jim Pugel, the former chief of the Seattle Police Department, roll up his slacks to rub a pot- infused lotion on his knee as a pot vape pen dangled from my mouth. Twenty years ago, Pugel was arresting pot dealers. Today, he's running for Seattle City Council and using THC-infused gel to alleviate lingering nerve pain from his recent bout with cancer.
Bizarre as it seems, a former police chief rubbing pot on his knees is a good microcosm of Seattle five years after pot legalization. It seems like every other adult has found a way to use pot, even people running for elected office. In an effort to better understand the 55 people running for city council seats in the August 6 primary election, we invited them to consume weed with us. Fuck voting for who you would want to get a beer with—which candidates would you share a joint with?
Five candidates attended: Jim Pugel (District 7), Logan Bowers (District 3), Kara Ceriello (District 6), Joey Massa (District 6), and Cathy Tuttle (District 4). Ethan Hunter, a 19-year-old running in District 4, tried to join in, but we told him he needed to grow up first. A few other candidates wanted to come but had legitimate excuses. Ami Nguyen (District 3) said she is not currently consuming pot because she's pregnant. Chris Peguero (District 2) and Andrew Lewis (District 7) wanted to be there, but they are city employees and the city forbids pot use.
Our stoner party was noticeably white—which is depressing, but also not surprising. Candidates of color are punished for things white people aren't, because society unfairly holds them to a higher standard, so a pot-smoking interview with Stranger reporters is a bigger risk for nonwhite candidates.
Bowers showed up like the weed dealer he is—he owns Hashtag Cannabis—throwing down two pre-rolls (Black Cherry Soda from Bondi Farms), two different types of flower (Emerald Jane's Conspiracy Kush and Chaos Kush by Saints), two different vape cartridges (Keanu Effect by Raven Grass and CBG Blend by Heylo Cannabis), a bag of infused cookie dough (by American Baked Co.), and a massive vaporizer called, menacingly, the Dark Knight.
Not wanting to be a bad host, I brought some Cherry Margarita flower from Fire Bros. and a pre-roll of White Tahoe Cookies by House of Cultivar. After Pugel demonstrated his gel, we started loading bowls in The Stranger's official bong, a locally made piece containing glass letters inside that spell SLOG, the name of our blog.
We took hits of pre-rolls, vapes, and the bong until the room was as cloudy as Myrtle Edwards Park during Hempfest. What followed was a delightfully meandering conversation, full of heady and heartfelt hopes for our city, occasional interruptions followed by a polite Oh wait, what were you saying?, and just as many lost trains of thought, Oh wait, what was I saying?
We all agreed the city should legalize cannabis cafes, at which point Bowers took a dig at the current council. Cafes would need state approval, which Bowers thinks the current council is bad at getting. "One of the problems we have as a city, across all policy areas, is that if Seattle wants it, the default position in Olympia is we don't get it because they don't trust the council to do anything," Bowers said.
Pugel, always the cop, left almost as soon as the bong was packed, saying he had asthma and another event to attend.
Massa said this was his favorite campaign event of the season. The 29-year-old was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2015 and given 18 months to live. His last surgery removed part of his liver so, naturally, he doesn't really drink.
"I was super enthusiastic about this invitation because of how many cocktail invitations I've had," Massa said.
Between bong rips, Massa told us how after his diagnosis, he augmented the traditional cancer treatment with 1,000 milligrams of RSO (cannabis oil) a day. Bowers, very much a numbers guy, explained to us the implication of consuming that much pot oil. "A whole gram? That would have been 300 milligrams of THC a day," Bowers said, as the rest of us, now thoroughly baked, collectively let out a quiet whoa.
A few minutes later, I passed around a pre-roll affixed to a small glass water pipe that creates a water-bubbling joint. Ceriello was particularly impressed by the bubbler, remarking: "It's like Burning Man. It's a testament to the creativity of the human brain. It's incredible."
She wasn't wrong. It was incredible. And we were getting higher by the minute. Tuttle started talking about how single-family zoning is creating food deserts across the city and how Seattle gives too much room to cars.
Just look at Yesler Way Bridge in downtown—we built a bridge and put parking on it, Bowers added.
"We could put a park on that bridge!" Tuttle said.
Then I had an idea. What if we changed Yesler Way to be like one of those bridges in Italy that has shops on it, like the Rialto Bridge in Venice or the Ponte Vecchio in Florence?
"I love it!" Tuttle said. "Okay, you're recording this, right?"
I was. Then we did some more stoner daydreaming about the future of the city. But even totally sober the next morning, turning Yesler Way into Ponte Vecchio still seemed like a good idea.