Maryland moved a step closer to dispensing medical marijuana on Thursday with the appointment of a commission by Gov. Martin O’Malley to oversee the program.

O’Malley (D) appointed 11 members to the Medical Marijuana Commission, as called for by legislation approved during this year’s session of the General Assembly.

The commission will be chaired by Dr. Paul W. Davies, president of Advanced Pain Management Specialists, a practice with eight locations in Maryland.

Maryland’s new law limits distribution of marijuana to a small number of qualified academic medical centers. Under the law, the commission has the authority to permit the centers to design and implement programs that make marijuana available to defined groups of patients.

Legislative analysts have said the earliest that a center is likely to begin distribution is 2016. The new commission is scheduled to hold its first meeting in Baltimore on Sept. 24.

Supporters of the new law say it is a significant step toward a compassionate treatment option for people with illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar laws. California was the first, adopting its version in 1996.