April Fool’s, Doug Ford style

April 1st saw another round of changes by Doug Ford’s government. Here is a look at just a couple of them, one of them decidedly more serious than the other.

In January 2018, the provincial Liberal government introduced what it called OHIP+, which allowed everyone under the age of 25 to receive a wide variety of prescriptions at no cost. Christine Elliott, the current health minister, has cut this coverage back as of April 1st so that only prescriptions not covered by a private health plan will be free.

“Mum, I need birth control”

This means, among other things, that teenagers who are covered by their parents’ health plan will have to submit bills for birth control prescriptions to that plan, likely through their parents. In other words, the 16-year-old girl who has been able to have her birth control covered under OHIP+ without her parents knowing now has to submit the bill through their private drug plan, if they have one and if her prescription is one of the covered drugs, or pay for it herself.

As Lyndsay Butcher of Kitchener’s Shore Centre, which provides sexual health education and support for unplanned pregnancies, notes:

“We know that so many teenagers are afraid of their parents finding out [that they are sexually active] . . . It can be really difficult for parents to understand why that teenager might go on birth control.”

Buying pot

Long anticipated by many, April 1st marked opening day for Ontario’s brick and mortar marijuana stores. Until yesterday, the only legal source of marijuana for Ontarians wanting a toke was through the government-run online Ontario Cannabis Store.

This made the province the last in the country to open stores, because Doug Ford’s government up-ended the plan put in place by the previous government. Whether or not turning the in-person marijuana retail business over to the private sector proves to be a good move in the long run remains to be seen, but at the moment it seems to have created chaos and a serious lack of access to this now-legal substance.

Ontario decided to licence just 25 stores initially, a paltry number for a province of this size and population. Municipalities were saddled with the responsibility of deciding whether or not they wanted stores at all and, if so, where they would permit them to be located. Anyone wishing to open a store had to apply through a lottery system for one of the coveted 25 licences. Only 11 licences have been issued to date and, of those, only nine stores were ready to open on April 1st.

Despite the fact that the reasons most of the 25 licenced businesses have not been able to open (including a lack of supply from the OCS, which is where stores have to buy their product) were out of their control, anyone with a licence who did not open yesterday faces fines: up to $12,000 for the first two weeks and $25,000 if they are not open by the end of April.

There are concerns that the lack of stores in Ontario will drive consumers to the illegal market, where there is a wider variety of products and the cost is about 50% lower than the cost in both the online and bricks and mortar stores.

I had a look at the Ontario Cannabis Store for the first time yesterday. I don’t do well when presented with a lot of choices. Why do there have to be so many kinds of shampoo? Couldn’t restaurants just offer five or six options? Even the library can overwhelm me with all those books.

When it comes to online pot, the choices were overwhelming. Pre-rolled or loose leaf? Oils? Capsules? Accessories? Kinky Kush? Yin and Yang? Easy Cheesy? Tangerine Dream? Fantasy Island?

Maybe if I had been already stoned, I could have made my way through the possibilities to find the one I wanted, but in the absence of that, I beat a hasty retreat.

Even though the pot store in my city was able to open its doors on April 1st, complete with a proclamation by the Town Crier, I figured the choices there would be equally overwhelming.

I’m just happy I have my own supply of homegrown. It has no fancy name, but it serves its purpose well, and I plan to stick with it.

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