The University of New Brunswick is establishing a research chair to study the medicinal effects of cannabis, which could help place New Brunswick as the leader of the marijuana industry in Canada.

The provincial government has been working on a plan to establish a thriving marijuana industry since the federal government announced the drug would be legalized by July 2018.

“We are fairly ahead of the game across the board on this particular file and I think it’s going to serve us well,” said New Brunswick Health Minister Victor Boudreau.

The New Brunswick Health Research Foundation and Tetra Bio-Pharma announced Wednesday that they will be investing $1 million to establish the new research chair on cannabis at UNB.

“It’s moving in an area which we currently don’t have at UNB and it’s allowing us the opportunity to partner with a growing industry in New Brunswick and in Canada,” said David Magee, acting vice-president of research.

The chair will focus primarily on the medicinal value of marijuana. Boudreau says more research is needed to better understand the drug.

“There’s not a whole lot of research that does exist in that regard, despite the fact we have physicians across Canada and across the world that prescribe it,” said Boudreau.

Private dispensary owner Hank Merchant says he knows the effects medical marijuana can have on his clients.

“This is going to help understand the effects and it’s also going to give confidence to the people that cannabis is here to stay and it is a medicine,” said Merchant.

UNB is in the process of putting out an internal call for nominations. The new chair is expected to be announced by April 2018.

This is the second university in New Brunswick to establish a research chair on cannabis. The provincial government announced in May that Shoppers Drug Mart and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation would be contributing $1 million over five years so St. Thomas University could establish a research chair on cannabis.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Mary Cranston and The Canadian Press