Last Friday, I had another of those daily text messages in the middle of the night wondering what was up.
I am the Director of Public Health Services for Ontario and I learned that the provincial government was implementing its first COVID (Cosmetics Collaborative Electronic Monitoring and Vigilance) program, which begins this week.
There are already 21 certified cannabis retailers across the province, but customers are still limited to buying up to 30 grams per purchase. If you are in a licensed shop and you’re buying 60 grams, you can buy double that amount to satisfy your growing curiosity.
It’s a strategy that I think will be working. Canadians want to be able to buy the product in a safe, legal and efficient manner.
On Tuesday, the Ontario government finally released the details of the program.
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Why is it being rolled out so slowly? Here are five answers to some of the most common questions we received from consumers:
1. When can I get my COVID booster shot?
The annual booster shot is part of the package, giving people the opportunity to acquire some form of screening as part of the package.
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2. Can I get my physical? Is it mandatory?
Cannabis does contain a whole range of chemicals that might be dangerous for certain individuals. The vaccination is necessary for people who use cannabis frequently and who may be at risk for cannabis-related illness, including many chronic conditions. It should also be mandatory for caregivers to receive it too.
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For consumers, you should be able to sign up at your licensed recreational cannabis retailer, or at any one of the 15 Ontario government support sites. You will need a personal identification number, valid insurance, and your immunization records. Details about how to sign up are available here.
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3. Can I smoke or vape at my licensed retail store?
According to the regulations, marijuana will be available to consumers in smoking devices and vaping devices only, including the option to vape oils, extracts and cannabis oils.
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4. Where can I be tested for cannabis toxicity?
Only licensed retailers will be able to test for cannabis toxicity, in addition to the COVID booster shot.
5. When do I have to be back to my registered supplier for my COVID booster shot?
The schedule of inspections will be published at www.health.ontario.ca and all retail will be required to pass the exams.
The same COVID and booster shot will be available at licensed support sites for more than 10 days. Results will also be available at www.health.ontario.ca and through the province’s telephone hotline. Results will be delivered automatically on Sept. 4.
Despite being launched last Friday, the COVID program has not generated much noise. This approach seems to be what the public wants. It’s a careful rollout to help ensure that people purchase the product they want and with the highest possible levels of security and trust.
Dennis Blair has been Director of Public Health Services for Ontario since 2014. He is a former public health officer for Saskatchewan.