TAMPA, Fla. - City council members gave medical marijuana the green light in Tampa.
In a 6-1 vote, council members approved an ordinance regulating dispensaries and processing facilities within city limits.
Councilman Charlie Miranda was the only person to vote against the ordinance.
Two local mothers spoke out against the plan at Thursday night's meeting.
Teresa Miller, of south Tampa, provided maps showing clusters of local pharmacies.
"Within a two-mile radius there's 15 pharmacies," said Miller. "If we get that many pot dispensaries around our country, it's going to be disastrous. We need to protect our children and our communities."
But city leaders expressed support for the state-regulated industry, now poised to sprout in Tampa.
"If I'm going to call myself a Christian and go to church every Sunday like I do, how can I say no to something like this and not show compassion," said councilman Guido Maniscalco.
The ordinance bans dispensaries and grow facilities 500 feet from a school, but it also lets owners request an exemption to open up shop inside that restricted area.
Locations are limited to commercial, retail and industrial districts, and are not allowed in residential areas.
"What you're going to see here is a much more controlled evolution and growth in terms of how many of these are allowed," said councilman Harry Cohen.
Regulations also allow owners to have a dispensary and a processing facility at the same location, as long as each has a separate entrance.
Councilman Frank Reddick is confident Thursday night's vote means life-changing hope for Tampa's terminally-ill patients.
"These people are tired of taking morphine just to deal with the pain," said Reddick. "And if this can help one person in this state from that suffering, I'm willing to take that chance."