Employers have criticized provincial governments across Canada over the inadequate education they have provided on responsibilities, regulations and rules concerning cannabis in the workplace.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business decided to poll members on the issue to mark the first anniversary of adult-use cannabis being legalized. Three out of every five employers surveyed said that the education they have been provided with about cannabis in the workplace has been either poor or very poor.

Eight per cent of the businesses surveyed said they have experienced a cannabis-related incident in the workplace since it was legalized on Oct. 17, 2018. The most common sector for reporting a cannabis incident was hospitality at 16%, followed enterprises, admin and management at 14%, and arts, recreation and information at 10%.

Twenty-two percent of businesses with 100 to 499 employees said they had experienced an incident concerning cannabis in the workplace. More than a third of businesses said they do not have a drug and alcohol policy in place. Small businesses do not have HR departments or legal experts, and they have called upon provincial governments to provide better support and education.

“We warned governments in the lead-up to legalization that their education efforts were severely lacking,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly. “A year in, and as new products become available, it doesn’t look like it’s gotten much better.”

Cannabis edibles and other topicals are now legal as of today. Licensed producers can begin applying to Health Canada for approval to supply provincial and territorial distributors and retailers with them.

The assessment and procurement process will take 60 to 90 days, so products should begin to hit shelves by November or December. Many industry insiders hoped that cannabis vapes would give Canada’s recreational market a timely boost, but that now looks challenging following the outbreak of a lung illness that has led to 29 deaths and more than 1,000 people becoming unwell.

The illness has been linked to vaping illicit THC cartridges secured on the black market, but it could have a knock-on effect of damaging the potential for legal sales of regulated, rigorously tested products.