Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 18, 2013

Michael Lilliquist Lashes Out Over Marijuana Ban

“Are you too stupid to understand or too dishonest to tell the truth?!”  City Councilman Michael Lilliquist is jabbing his finger toward me after the Tea Party forum yesterday (read about it here). “That was a cheap shot and you know it! You go home and blog about about how I said it was a cheap shot. I’ve lost all respect for you after that stunt you pulled.” Lilliquist’s eyes were wide with anger.


Michael Lilliquist

What had I possibly done that had sparked this sort of reaction? Lilliquist had a problem with the way I had phrased my question at the forum earlier. My horribly offensive question? “As a proponent of the free market, I was shocked and disappointed to see the Bellingham City Council ban retail marijuana stores within the city limits. Is the County Council considering a similarly foolish measure?” As with most questions at forums, it was leading the witness and the candidates handled it with grace and class.

Not so much for Lilliquist, who started in on it after the forum was over. “This crowd,” referring to the Tea Party activists who attended, “believes that all government does is ban things rather than protect people from things.” I countered that government does both but he continued on, “It is not a ban! It is a moratorium . . . a temporary moratorium! You could have described it as any number of things!”

Lilliquist is not the first person to raise this quibble about ban versus moratorium. Here at the Political Junkie, it is my goal to remove the technical jargon from politics. From my view, while the moratorium is in place, businesses are banned. That is the definition of a moratorium. Yes, it will expire in a year’s time, but for now, these businesses are banned so in my view it is an accurate term.

This is not the first time Lilliquist has opposed the legalization of marijuana. He was one of the three dues-paying members of the Whatcom Democrats to vote against endorsing the marijuana legalization initiative last year, although he did not speak out about the issue. Now, as a member of the Bellingham City Council, he has been the most active in supporting this ban in the public sphere. With no opponent for this year’s reelection campaign, Lilliquist is free from any electoral concerns over this issue but it might be a concern for any future aspirations.

Where we did find a moment of agreement, during this tense exchange, was over the city’s legal department being unprepared. I contended that they have had plenty of time, this shouldn’t have been a surprise. “I agree but that is a completely separate issue!” Lilliquist argued. I offered that if the city legal department had done their homework, there would be no need for a ban. “Moratorium! And again, that’s a separate issue, on the City Council I can’t manage the legal department.” A fair point, but the ban was their reaction to these circumstances.

To add another level, this bodes ill if this is how the City Council responds to public debate. If asking a question at a forum about their recent actions spark accusations of dishonesty, then no wonder the council passed this ban without any public discussion. Sunshine and public discussion are essential to making good decisions, by contrast lashing out when someone criticizes your behavior is not how you build community support.

Final note, I don’t bear Lilliquist any ill will. I know that he, like most of our public officials, are working with the best interests of the community in mind and while I disagree (quite strongly) with some of his decisions, I appreciate his willingness to discuss them with his constituents. Even if that discussion involves finger-waving and blustering. Politics can be rough and tumble, and while I don’t think calling a reporter stupid is a very wise decision (my reaction here), I’m always up for the give and take.

UPDATE: In a facebook comment, Lilliquist clarified his support for legalization. 

The war on drugs is a failed and misguided policy when applied to marijuana, so I believe in good regulation of access to that mind altering substance much the same as alcohol. Yes, legalize it, but regulate it.

The problem is that we have none of those rules in place yet, the Feds are unhelpful and potentially hostile, and we have this one chance to get it right the first time. I think that calls for a careful approach. Riley calls that a ban, and acts as if a temporary restriction is tantamount to a backdoor attempt to thwart the voters. C’mon!”

I appreciate that Lilliquist is willing to continue to engage on this and hope that he continues to do so in a productive manner.



  1. Thanks for informing us voters about this aggressive verbal attack by Lilliquist. I also have experienced such from him and have not reported them – but then people would think I started it. With you, we know you have a cool demeanor and an young and open mind. Lilliquist may be running unopposed, but if his vote total is low enough that sends a message to him about how we think of his actions. I will not vote for him.

    And another observation – on our city council, maybe Knudson and Weiss are the more conservative or politically neutral members. But to see our 5 liberals all kow tow to the absent minded city attorney and vote to ban all marijuana activity in our town was just mind boggling. Lehman? Borneman? Seth? Wow. Liberal??

  2. Completely unnecessary legislation passed in an undemocratic and indefensible manner.

    • Emergency agenda item? Sure.

      Almost every other city in Washington has some kind of marijuana store ban going on right now. This appears to be an organized State wide effort and not just an incompetent legal staff.

      I-502 is a big MONEY threat to liquor sales and drug stores/pharma. There may be more afoot for a ban with some “incentives” for the City to secretly ban marijuana sales. The extreme reaction from M. Lilliquist gives away the game that something else is probably going on. If the Council were so proud of their Ban legislation they could have allowed public comment and then passed it.

      I am sure Riley will figure out what is really going on here.

  3. Just for the record, I am working on doing what I can to get us (the City) positioned for legal marijuana sales and use quickly, so that we can participate fully in these (“new” — ha!) activities locally as soon as possible. And am always open to ideas about how to make that happen. We have a public hearing in August that I certainly encourage people to take advantage of, because it helps put the pressure/make the case..

    • Thank you Cathy! That’s exactly the right response to this issue, and I appreciate your hard work towards getting this resolved swiftly.

    • Thank you, Cathy!

  4. I think Lilliquist has a point. It is a moratorium. There are still quite a few loose ends to clean up before the legal structure is in place for our much anticipated full-blown commercial pot party. It is probably prudent to have those things in place before we start issuing permits and then have the permittee run afoul of the law.

    As a free marketer and a libertarian with a small ‘l’, I still have some mixed feelings about this whole pot thing. No sooner did we throw the state out of the liquor business, in it barges to fill the void with pot revenue.

    If I were a cynic (and I certainly am), I’d say that one reason Banningham has put the kibosh on pot is because the requisite government revenue streams haven’t been established yet.

    • I feel well represented by Mr. Lilliquist. I think he is correct to vote to delay pot until the legal department clears things up. That is responsible. I think Mr. Sweeney was showing his bully side in the build up to this blog post. Making a big deal out of the word ‘ban’ is a waste of my time. I don’t use pot and I don’t care if you do. I do care about a civil discours

      • I care deeply about civil discourse which is why I was so surprised at Lilliquist’s behavior. But thank you for reading!

  5. I think there is a meaningful distinction between a ban and a moratorium. But NOTHING that a member of the public says, even when that person is a journalist, (especially when that person is a journalist) justifies personal attack by an elected official. Electeds may not like what the public says, but they have to listen and they have to be polite. That is the deal they signed up for when they ran for office.

    Sounds like the next City Council meeting will have to start out with a public apology, just like the last one.

  6. The only ones with a clear head here seem to be the members of the council, and most are Democrats. I am Republican and I applaud their efforts and decision. Why put the cart before the horse? You can’t authorize growing the STUFF until you have the full legal okay to do so.

    A sad side note that shows an incident regarding the use of pot by a cousin of mine. She was on the stuff and higher than a kite, when she brought home two Black gentlemen from Chicago to Western New York and to her stepdad’s home.

    They showed her face in the doorway glass and my Uncle let her in, along with these seedy characters. My cousin then walked out behind the house
    with flowers in her hand and appeared to be talking to these weeds, while the two guys are taking the father, mother, and young daughter to the basement and tying them up. They threw them on a mattress and shot them all in the head in cold blood just like in the movie with the same title, “In Cold Blood” with Blake in it.

    The daughter got 25 to life, but was out in 25. More folks should be putting their foot down when it comes to selling pot for recreational use like the girl in my true story. Enjoy your Highs and Mostly Lows!

    • Sorry about your foolish cousin, grassrots08. It seems to assuage your family pride to conclude that it was the pot that caused the incident, and not stupidity and bad luck and bad associations. However, those of us who form our opinions on science and experience know that hemp is one of the most benign plants known to man.

      What is it about personal freedom you don’t understand, Mr. Republican?

      • You are actually Hiding from your own question and I’m not demeaning republicans or democrats. It was benign when my cousin took to talking to her plants and when a student in my college dorm was smoking hash and jumping up and down on my bed saying he was an airplane. Good thing he wasn’t benign on the 14th floor, and dancing on my window sill. Does the drug turn a person into someone else, or are they imagining they’re somewhere other than the real world? These two were certainly out to lunch. I’m happy being the person that my Creator God made me to be. End of story!

    • Tragic story. Question though. If the murderers were white, would you have said two White gentlemen?

      • Sir,
        Easy answer to you, YES, since I’m Native American or was someone hoping I’d say the “N” word. You see many of my friends are dark skinned like myself, while others couldn’t tan, if their life depended on it, like my very own brother who is fair and generally burns easily. I’m the color of toast on a hot day, trust me.

        I once told a man (White) that I wish I’d been born Black so I could tell him I was just as good as he was. He hated me for this and said he wanted to kill me, since he hated all Black people. A week later, he tied a kid up to a tree and bludgeoned him to death. I guess he was serious. He did 25 to life and is out after 25 also, and the authorities allowed him to go back to the old neighborhood. That I will never understand!!!

        No names are forthcoming here, since I like living better than dying, if you get my note!

  7. The good representative and his response to the queston revealed, perhaps, more than he intended, mostly germane to his temperament and intellectual nimbleness. For instance, might he be intemperate? Yes. Rash? Obviously. Given to ill-considered remarks? Patently so. Thoughtful? No. Intellectually engaged? Doesn’t appear to be the case. Responsive to his constituents, regardless of their perspectives on a given topic. Nope. Worthy of re-election? Up to the individual, of course, but he’s lost my vote. Perhaps he needs to be a bit more reflective.
    I’ll conclude by recalling that, “Laws do not convince just because they threaten” (to paraphrase Seneca) and who needs a paternalistic government to protect us from ourselves?

  8. It’s a bummer Lilliquist acted this way, but he’s done it before when he’s gotten worked up about something. Remember the traffic camera hearings (or at least the public comments during the meeting before the actual vote and the council members’ reactions to them)? I’d never seen an elected official react so caustically to earnest input (granted, he did seem to be pretty riled up by Eyeman’s presence, but still). Obviously he doesn’t react well in the spur of the moment.

    He can call it whatever he likes, but a ban is a ban, even if it’s only temporary, and with the best of intentions. Riley’s absolutely right. If Lilliquist is so worried about ironing out kinks he should’ve circled the wagons in December. Or at the very least, been much MUCH more transparent about his actions.

    The biggest problem stemming from the ban, in my opinion, is that it will really hurt locals’ chances of getting any kind of profitable business off the ground as quickly as possible, and make us ripe for out-of-town, big-money ventures to swoop in and set up a monopoly in the market from the get-go. Local pot shops need as much of a competitive advantage as they can get, and the city council’s ban will be pretty devastating to their initial success, I predict.

  9. This is typical of Lilliquist. I have seen him interact with all kinds of people under lots of circumstances, and he is emotional, rude, and patronizing. He believes that if he isn’t being critical and confrontational, then he isn’t getting his point across, and he takes personal affront to people who disagree with him. He seems to be compelled to convince others of his point of view, and if someone disagrees, he often resorts to condescension and derision to try to bully you into his perspective. He has no respect for other points of view. It’s a disappointment that no one stepped forward to run against him for council.

  10. FYI. Spokane City has taken a good tack in publishing an FAQ to explain its emergency interim ordinance on marijuana, and to explain the next steps and public hearing. Bellingham will be having a public hearing, too.

    P.S. I believe Riley has not conveyed accurate quotes and has mischaracterized several aspects. Nonetheless, the main points are accurate. I think Riley has been too free with exaggeration and simplification, and that has not been good for the public understanding of what the city is trying to do, which is to prevent having people take actions in a legal void and limbo.

    If Cathy is working to do what she can, I hope she shares that with the rest of the Council. My last talk with city legal made no such indication that she had talked with them, but maybe that has changed. Typically, Mayor Kelli asks council members to take a hands off approach when staff is working, so I am interested to see if that has changed.

    • What actions are you afraid people would have taken sans ban that the state laws and guidelines would have been unable to compensate for, specifically?

  11. I was a witness to the post-forum confrontation between Riley and Michael, two individuals for whom I have great respect. And, as Michael admits, he was the hot one–the aggressor–and Riley the calm one. I have also read the Facebook dialog and don’t remember the exact words that were used. Nor do I think they particularly matter. It was an unfortunate incident that I hope will come to rest.

    I never take Riley’s use of quotes to be verbatims, but I do feel they reflect the gist and emotional tone accurately nearly without exception.

    Nobody likes to be criticized either individually or as a group. And, Michael and Riley are no exception. I have been very critical of this Council because they don’t trust the people. If Michael did say that Riley was too stupid to understand or too dishonest to tell the truth, he is paraphrasing me when Michael and I tilted over the Council going to Court to block a vote on the Citizens Bill of Rights initiative. In a loud interchange, Michael made all the valid points about the flaws in the initiative. I finally was able to break in and tell him I agreed, but didn’t give a “hang”. The point was that they either didn’t trust the voters to make the right decision, their own ability to convince the voters, or both. He laughed and admitted that this was a valid criticism. This Council listens too much to its legal department. By nature, legal departments are extremely cautionary. Any Corporate Executive can tell you that. The better ones take risks and don’t always heed the caution. My motto in dealing with our law department was that it was better to do and ask for forgiveness, than to ask for permission.

    Michael has been referred to as a hothead and as a “wonk” or “nerd”, two uncomplimentary terms seldom used together to describe a single person. I prefer the positive slant–he is both passionate or emotional and informed or intellectual. I like the package.

  12. I welcome the occasional flare-up of temper by any representative since it proves they’re still human and have emotional energy invested in their reasoning.
    But it was undemocratic and underhanded to apply this temporary ban the way it happened and the published comments by the Assistant attorney justifying emergency secrecy were especially unAmerican.

  13. […] promised, I have the real story behind the Marijuana ban (moratorium!) but I’m verifying a few more sources before I publish. I hope to have that story live over […]

  14. Pending Riley’s scoop, I totally agree with davedoran

  15. […] Michael Lilliquist pulls up next to me and politely caches my typo on Steve Smith, Thank you! […]

  16. […] Despite earlier concerns, Lilliquist voted to allow retail stores in Bellingham […]

  17. […] colored-coded the spreadsheet by race. First, Michael Lilliquist despite have zero opponents raised almost $4,000 and then spent around $1,000. How did this happen? […]

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