Just say no to US call to extradite pot activist, says law prof

The weekend arrest of Canadian marijuana activist Marc Emery led to calls on Justice Minister Irwin Cotler to reject a US request to extradite him, due to the stiff mandatory sentence Emery could face for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet. For expert comment, the media turned to Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Young has long been a marijuana-legalization advocate, has done legal work for Emery in the past and is expected to join Emery’s legal defence team, reported The Globe and Mail Aug. 3. Here are some of his comments:

  • In a Globe and Mail opinion piece Aug. 3, Young wrote: “From the Canadian perspective, Emery’s constant flouting of our marijuana laws were tolerated and his activities seen as part and parcel of our continuing debate over marijuana law reform. I recognize that the sale of viable cannabis seeds appears to be a crime both in Canada and the United States, and that there may be a legal basis for seeking extradition as these seeds found their way onto US soil. But I’m deeply concerned about subjecting a Canadian citizen to the draconian laws of a foreign nation when we don’t bother charging this person for violating our laws. A Canadian citizen is now exposed to US drug sentences which border on cruel and unusual punishment – for violating a law we rarely enforce in Canada.”
  • Young said he would argue that the charge of trafficking marijuana seeds is obsolete here because it has not been prosecuted since 1968 – and that even if a Canadian court approves the extradition, Cotler should reject it, reported the Globe Aug. 3. “[Emery] still has another kick at the can in trying to convince Irwin Cotler that this is a case where mutual legal assistance is not operating properly,” Young said.
  • Newscasts on CBC Newsworld and CBC Radio Aug. 2 reported that Young denounced Emery’s arrest. Young was also interviewed about the case on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” in Toronto Aug. 2.

Why Weight Watchers endures in fad-driven diet world

Weight Watchers Inc. remains the leader by understanding the market, constantly reinventing itself and sticking to basic principles, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 3. “It’s the unusual one that survives,” said Alan Middleton, a marketing expert at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “It’s easy to get people to try a diet. It’s hard to sustain them,” Middleton said. “The classic dieter will try anything, but if they can’t sustain it or they get bored with it, you don’t have a sustainable business.” The success of Weight Watchers lies partly in constantly renewing itself, hiring new spokespeople, launching new products and keeping the brand top of mind, Middleton said, and by being in every aspect of the business, what Middleton calls the “Martha Stewart” approach to marketing. “They have the approach, the books, the products, everything you need.”

In comparison, companies like Atkins are another example of a current trend that Middleton called “inflation marketing.” Fuelled by a celebrity-driven culture, such companies are good at getting their names in front of people, but if the product doesn’t really meet needs, it dies out just as quickly, he said.

Profs vie for TVO podium

A wide variety of lecturers comprises University of Windsor philosophy teacher Marcello Guarini’s competition in the next round of TVO’s hunt for star lecturers on “Big Ideas”, reported the Windsor Star Aug. 3. His competition ranges from a University of Toronto specialist on Slavic literature to a York University physicist [astronomer Paul Delaney].

Enron settlement allows CIBC to focus on operations

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has agreed to pay US$2.4 billion to settle class-action claims related to the collapse of Enron Corp., the largest single payment to date in a series of settlements among major financial institutions, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 3. “The settlement allows the bank to work within predictability and certainty,” said Poonam Puri, professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. ”The bank can focus on operations versus managing the litigation.” The Star story was also published in The Record of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.

M! M! M! festival founded by York alum

Toronto’s Masala! Mehndi! Masti! festival, a celebration of South Asian culture, is the brainchild of York business grad Abhishek Mathur and his wife, Jyoti Rana, reported the Toronto Star July 30. They run M! M! M! with a legion of dedicated volunteers from the basement of their Mississauga home. Rana, born and raised in Toronto, met Mathur when both were students at York University. [He earned a BBA in 1994 and MBA in 1998.] He’d grown up in India, attending Mayo College in Ajmer, Rajasthan, an elite British boarding school. In Toronto, he found a South Asian diaspora that seemed fragmented, with subgroups such as Gujaratis, Punjabis and Tamils sticking to their own kind. It was experiencing an “identity crisis,” with the younger generation feeling increasingly alienated. Being South Asian was not considered “cool,” so while people reverted to tradition at home, “the minute they walked out the door, they acted ‘white,'” he said. “Culture tends to get diluted when you’re trying to fit in. We had to take responsibility to ensure this 5,000-year-old vibrant culture didn’t die out here,” Mathur said. He, Rana and a handful of friends were mulling it all over when they seized on the idea of a festival.