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Phoenix places four-month moratorium on pot dispensaries

 Posted: 2:50 PM March 04, 2014

A heated Phoenix City Council meeting ended Monday with slammed doors and a moratorium banning medical marijuana facilities in city limits for four months.

The moratorium was approved by a vote of 4 to 2 on the day medical marijuana dispensaries became legal in Oregon.

Council members Terry Helfrich and Karen Jones voted against the moratorium, citing liability concerns and frustration with the length of time spent on the issue. Council members Carolyn and Stan Bartell, Chris Luz and Bruce Sophie voted in favor of the stall tactic.

Unless the moratorium is challenged, at least one business could be forced to close.

The Greenery, a nonprofit patient resource center in downtown Phoenix, opened last year but was denied a business license and has been issued citations of "up to $500 per day" for several months.

Patients served by The Greenery attended the Monday meeting but many left in protest, some shouting at council members on their way out.

"My civil rights were attacked and squished underfoot by my elected officials tonight," said Melanie Barniskis, manager of The Greenery.

Barniskis took issue with several council members referring to marijuana facilities as "pot shops" and directing what she perceived as insults toward medical marijuana clients.

"For them to openly acknowledge that the place that I get my medication is nothing more than a pot shop. ... I'm old," Barniskis said. "I know exactly what that implies in his mind. It just infuriates me and I have a strong feeling that there are going to be some civil rights issues discussed."

— Buffy Pollock

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