The push to legalize marijuana in Maryland moved forward April 1 as the Maryland General Assembly approved a measure allowing research centers to implement limited medical marijuana testing.

As the AP reports, the state senate approved the measure in a 42-4 vote. The bill will now go to Governor Martin O'Malley, who indicated he would be likely to sign it, given the bill includes provisions to suspend the program if the federal government decides to prosecute participating state employees.

While analysts have projected programs would not be up and running until 2016, Delegate Dan Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat and physician who had been working to pass the medical marijuana bill for years, told the AP that major area hospitals such as Sinai and Johns Hopkins have both expressed interest in clinical trials.

"(The research centers) needed to wait to see what the road map looked like, and now that they have, I think you're going to see much quicker movement than people may have anticipated," Morhaim told the AP.

The language of the legislation stipulates that participating medical centers must specify the conditions it would treat using the drug as well as the types of patients allowed to participate. A participating medical center would also have to make data on patients and caregivers available to both the state department of health as well as law enforcement.

While a step forward for legalization activists, some feel it may not be enough. Amanda Reiman, a policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance explained in a statement, "Maryland has taken a small step in the right direction, but more steps are necessary for patients to actually obtain the medicine they need to alleviate their suffering.”

Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-Cecil, one of the two state senators who opposed the bill, explained to the AP that he opposes the piecemeal approach to marijuana legalization, with bills over specific medical and agricultural uses languishing the legislature, and would rather see more comprehensive legislation put to a vote.

Legalization legislation was recently proposed in the Alabama State House of Representatives. According to The News Courier, House Bill 550, sponsored by state Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Huntsville, would legalize the medical and recreational use of marijuana as well as the cultivation of industrial hemp in Alabama. Prefiled on April 5, this bill would make Alabama the third state in the nation to legalize the recreational use of the drug, following Colorado and Washington.