A measure to create a medical marijuana program cleared the Maryland House of Delegates March 25 on a 108-28 vote. The controversial bill that has been at the center of debate for many years, will now pass to the Senate.

After the House approved the measure to allow medical use of the substance, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D) told the {Associated Press} that he believes that, with strong backing in the House and the endorsement of Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the measure should sail through the Senate unencumbered.

If enacted, the bill would create a state commission to oversee medical marijuana programs at participating academic medical research centers. The measure is not expected to kick in until 2016.

“It may take several years for a program to get up and running, and federal policy presents a substantial obstacle to a law like this one ever being fully implemented,” Dan Riffle, deputy director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, a marijuana lobbying group, told the {AP}. “Still, this bill gives us hope that patients could have safe, reliable access through programs that bear the imprimatur of some of the country’s most respected medical institutions.”

If instituted, the programs would provide patients with marijuana from the federal government or state-licensed marijuana growers.

The bill’s passage comes a week after a measure designed to decriminalize marijuana possession cleared the Senate.