03/30/2016 16:32 EDT | Updated 03/31/2017 01:12 EDT

30 years after Hatfield scandal, N.B. premier embraces marijuana industry jobs

MONCTON, N.B. — With a single announcement, New Brunswick's premier demonstrated Wednesday how much Canada's debate over marijuana has evolved in the last three decades.

Premier Brian Gallant announced almost $1 million in potential funding for a medical marijuana company, OrganiGram, that aims to tap into the recreational market if the federal government decriminalizes the drug as expected.

One of Gallant's predecessors, Richard Hatfield, was thrown out of office in the 1980s after a marijuana scandal - but for Gallant on Wednesday, marijuana jobs were a good-news announcement.

"We are pleased to see more opportunities for people to work right here, in New Brunswick," Gallant said in a news release.

Gallant went Wednesday to the Moncton offices of OrganiGram, one of 30 producers licensed by Health Canada to produce medical marijuana. The company plans to create 113 jobs in an expansion.

The government said it will give a payroll rebate of up to $8,761 for each job, up to $990,000.

Denis Arsenault, CEO of OrganiGram, said the company is positioned to be a big player in any legal marijuana market.

"Our industry has the potential to be a once in a generation opportunity for growth and economic development as we move towards a recreational marketplace," Arsenault said in a release.

Hatfield was charged with possession after marijuana was discovered in his luggage during a routine baggage inspection during the 1984 royal tour. He was acquitted, but lost every seat in the 1987 election to Liberal leader Frank McKenna.

The Canadian Press