A licence to grow a landmark amount of weed

A BC resident has received a Health Canada licence to possess 60 grams of marijuana for daily medical use, allowing him to legally grow as many as 292 marijuana plants, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 29.

The licence provides for possibly the largest quantity ever to be legalized in Canada, say lawyers in Vancouver and Toronto who have been involved in high-profile marijuana-related court cases.

“It’s a large amount. Nobody, not even Sir Walter Raleigh, could smoke 60 marijuana cigarettes a day,” Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said yesterday in an interview.

However, Sam Mellace is not smoking joints. He has a liver disorder and chronic pain from injuries he received in a car accident. He uses the plant to make skin creams and butter for baked goods. “I do not smoke it. I need that much marijuana to create the cream and butter for myself,” Mellace said in an interview.

Young said surveys have shown that most medical marijuana users have not signed up for the federal program and most of those with federal licences are not buying the product from the government. Health Canada is spending a lot of money on a program that does not work, he said. “It’s dysfunctional. It causes enormous problems and headaches across the country,” he said.

Young has represented numerous medicinal marijuana users charged with possessing the drug and has also successfully challenged federal marijuana regulations in court, forcing the government to revise them.

He is working with Mellace to develop a proposed pilot project for Health Canada that would allow Mellace to sell his creams and butter to other medical marijuana users. Mellace said he could provide products for most licensed users. He would like his company, New Age Medical Solutions Inc., to become the first legal private-sector source in Canada for medicinal marijuana.

Health Canada was approached with the idea of a new source of marijuana in early December. “We had discussions on whether they would keep an open mind and consider some of the options and alternatives we are presenting. The good news is, they clearly expressed an interest in our ideas and a willingness to keep an open mind. So now I am preparing proposals for them to review to see if this is a direction they might want to go in,” Young said.

  • A licensed BC pot grower was in Toronto Monday trying to take a bite out of Health Canada’s monopoly on medicinal marijuana, wrote the St. Catharines Standard Dec. 29.

Sam Mellace, 56, formerly of Toronto, is allowed to grow 292 plants, which he does in a Miracle Valley, BC “industrial-style” operation that yields about seven kilos of marijuana every four to six weeks.

He was at York University to meet with Alan Young, professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, as part of a plan to grow and sell the drug directly to prescription holders. The Federal Court of Canada recently ruled the government cannot rely solely on the monopoly it created for the distribution of medicinal marijuana, Young said. “At this time we are in discussions with Health Canada,” Young said. “I represent sick people who need the drugs because a monopoly doesn’t work.” The growing of marijuana won’t attract organized crime, he said.

Lawyers who become directors wade into perilous waters

A recent Superior Court ruling is escalating the thorny debate over whether lawyers should serve on corporate boards, wrote the Law Times Jan. 4.

Edward Waitzer, a partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP and Jarislowsky Dimma Mooney Chair in Corporate Governance at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business, says lawyers wade into perilous waters when they accept directorships, particularly when the company is also a client of the firm.

As to how common the practice is in Canada, Waitzer says he believes that the number of lawyer-directors has plummeted over the last decade. “But there are probably more than most people would like,” he adds.

It’s not difficult to understand the attraction for companies to have their lawyers on the board since they come equipped with both legal knowledge and business acumen. Lawyers, in turn, are tempted by the opportunity to closely engage an important client, Waitzer says. “It’s always difficult to say no when a client asks you to go on the board,” he says. “And for some, the fees are attractive.”

Waitzer says he served on a half-dozen boards a number of years ago, but today that number is zero.

The difficulty in fulfilling two roles is in distinguishing one from the other, he explains.

According to many, however, having fewer lawyer-directors would not necessarily be a bad thing. “People make compromises all the time,” Waitzer says. “But you’d have a hard time finding someone advocating that a lawyer should serve as a director for a company that is also a client.”

Parallels between obesity and addiction

Obesity can be rooted in addiction and should be treated with the same therapies, suggests a McMaster University researcher, wrote The Hamilton Spectator Dec. 22.

The controversial theory by Valerie Taylor, published yesterday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, is that therapies for obesity often fail because the patient’s food addiction goes untreated. “Classifying obesity as an addiction is a strong statement and implies much more than merely a change in semantics,” states the commentary by McMaster’s Taylor and two York University researchers. “It indicates that screening for addiction and binge eating should become a routine part of treatment for obesity.”

“Food addiction” is a label that has caused clinical and scientific controversy. There are currently a number of theories about the causes of obesity ranging from genetics to overeating to mental health issues to lack of exercise.

Ontario wine maverick Gabe Magnotta dies

In the Ontario wine industry, Gabe Magnotta (BA ’74) was a maverick, wrote the St. Catharines Standard Jan. 5. As head of Magnotta Winery Corp., he was the guy who took on giants, such as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, and won.

On Dec. 30, the 59-year-old wine entrepreneur died after a seven-year battle with Lyme disease, a tick-borne viral infection that can lead to disorders of the heart, joints or nervous system.

Born in the small mountain town of Andretta, Italy, Magnotta immigrated to Canada when he was 11 years old, according to his obituary in a Toronto newspaper. He became a high school teacher after graduating from York University, but later found his true calling in business, the newspaper reported.

Climbing the corporate ladder? Here are five investing tips

Diversification is not just about having dozens of stocks and funds, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 23…. One asset sometimes overlooked, in the view of Professor Moshe Milevsky of the Schulich School of Business at York University, is the investor’s own human capital. “While conceptually this asset is different from your tangible, financial assets, it should be considered and diversified in tandem with your financial capital,” advises Milevsky, author of Are You a Stock or a Bond?

Student wins scholarship through hoops tourney

Student-athletes have an opportunity to apply for a scholarship available through the Tribune Boys Basketball Tournament, wrote the Welland Tribune Jan. 5. Recipients of the 2009 tournament scholarship include Jacky Li, a graduate of Port Colborne High School. Li is attending York University, studying human resource management.

New CEO for St. Joseph’s at Fleming starts job

On the first day of his job as CEO of St. Joseph’s at Fleming, Gary Sims walked confidently through the halls, chatting amicably with staff and hugging one staff member he hadn’t seen in a long time while remarking she’d lost a lot of weight, wrote The Peterborough Examiner Jan. 5.

Sims seems like he has been there for years. The 47-year-old father of four, who has lived in the Omemee area for just more than 20 years, started his new job yesterday. This is a big career move for Sims, whose last job was as director of surgical, women and children’s programs at Lindsay’s Ross Memorial Hospital.

Sims is also a trained registered nurse who has worked at the Peterborough Community Care Access Centre and continues part-time work teaching health studies at York University.

Osgoode grad heads to Israel to speak on conflict resolution

Alan Levy (LLM ’02), a professor in the Department of Business Administration at Manitoba’s Brandon University, has been asked to give a series of lectures at the University of Haifa in Israel, on alternative dispute resolution, wrote the Westman Journal Dec. 23. The trip will include lectures to students along with public talks involving policy-makers, judges, lawyers, politicians and other interested public.

Levy is particularly excited to be going to the University of Haifa, for its pluralistic campus with an equal number of Israeli and Arabic students. “It’s time for collaborative, political and business initiatives between Israel and the Arab world. There is no military solution at this point but Israelis have much to contribute, and progressive Arabs working with them could create world-transforming partnerships,” says Levy. “This is partly what I will be lecturing on at Haifa University. The need for collaboration within the Middle East and how to design business conflict resolution systems there.”

Organization plans to help businesses go green

Nottawasaga Futures is gearing up to turn local businesses into lean, green, job-making machines, wrote the Bradford West Gwillimbury Topic Dec. 23.

As part of a partnership with York University and Iowa-based James R. Black and Associates, the organization is preparing to launch its Green Transformation program next year.

The program is intended to help manufacturers, retailers, agri-businesses and the public sector save money while becoming more environmentally friendly and creating and/or maintaining sustainable jobs.

Enter York University and its Knowledge Mobilization Unit, led by David Phipps, director of York’s Office of Research Services, For the next three-and-a-half months, two graduate students and one researcher from the University are working to discover and develop the methods that will be implemented in the Green Transformation program.

The unit is intended to use university research-based resources for community needs, Phipps said. One student, Michael Weaver, is already creating what he calls the E3 Database. The three Es are for energy efficiency, energy conservation and green energy.

Former York student drops a career to pursue a dream

Dressed in hospital scrubs, Brian Levy stands at an elderly patient’s bedside, waiting for instructions from the physician on duty in emergency at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 24. The doctor examines the patient and discovers an irregular heartbeat. Levy takes on the task of soothing the worried patient.

It’s a far cry from his previous career. Before he became a medical student, Levy was chief executive officer of one of Canada’s top electronics chains, the Source by Circuit City.

By next May, if all goes as planned, he’ll graduate from medical school – a childhood dream coming true at the age of 51. “I think you have to be a little bit obsessive to go to medical school,” the plain-spoken Levy says with a laugh. “I’ve always been an over-doer.”

After his exit from the company, Levy finally applied to medical school. Not able to sit idle, he meanwhile took undergraduate science courses at York University. One of his lab partners was 17, about the same age as his own children.

Former fine arts student reworks Mozart for a young audience

Former York student Justin Hiscox and Molly Thom are two Peterborough artists associated with Toronto’s Shoestring Opera, wrote The Peterborough Examiner Dec. 26.

The Shoestring Opera will present The Shoestring Magic Flute, an opera for children based on Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Children’s Stage Lakefield on Jan. 24 at Lakefield College School at 4pm

Hiscox is a music arranger for the opera…and a composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, teacher with New Horizons and church music director. He is [also] music director at 4th Line Theatre where he is usually seen playing keyboards, accordion, guitar, tuba, trombone or any other brass instrument he can get his hands on.

“He particularly enjoyed the challenge of reducing Puccini’s orchestra of 70-odd to just two instruments and occasionally adding his own Broadway stamp for Shoestring Opera’s production of Bozo’s Fortune,” stated a press release.

Small steps, modest Afghan dreams

I don’t pretend to understand the war in Afghanistan, but I am rooting for the restaurants of Afghan-Torontonians, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 26.

The story of Afghan food here is one of modest dreams. Aaron Amadi sent me a message about the spot he co-owns with his brother Jameel. “We are basically selling kebobs and traditional Afghan cuisine in McDonald’s style concept,” he enthused. “When customers come in here and look at these pictures, they say, ‘This is not what they show on CNN or CBC. What is Afghanistan like?’” says Aaron.

He’s proud for a moment of the country he left in 1999. Then the 26-year-old former York University business student admits: “I’m not a political guy. It’s a mess out there.”

Study links smaller rosters to less bodychecking

Brock University professor Brent Faught and a group of fellow researchers didn’t have a theory in mind when they began to test a computerized program that measured the ice time and body-on-body collisions in hockey games, wrote the Owen Sound Sun Times and The Niagara Falls Review Dec. 28.

Faught, Joseph Baker, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health, McMaster University’s John Cairney, University of Toronto’s Paul Corey and Lakehead University’s William Montelpare used their graduate students to have two researchers attend 107 atom (ages 9-10) hockey games across Ontario, excluding Ottawa.

The study looked at games in five associations. Hockey Northern Ontario didn’t allow bodychecking while the Northern Ontario Hockey Association, the Minor Hockey Alliance of Ontario, the Ontario Minor Hockey Association and the Greater Toronto Hockey League allowed bodychecking.

Personal finance tips

Here are five pointers to help avoid some of the main pitfalls when investing for retirement, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 29.

For retirement portfolios, Professor Moshe Milevsky of the Schulich School of Business at York University advises against an emphasis on fixed-income securities because of the risks of outliving such investments in this age of longer retirements and low interest rates. As discussed in his book, Are You a Stock or a Bond?, his empirical studies have found that the chance of outliving retirement funds fall as the allocation to stocks rises – with the optimal weighting being 60 to 70 per cent. Such an emphasis on stocks also provides better protection against inflation risk.

Annuities are subject to erosion of purchasing power, counterparty risk (default by the insurance company), irreversibility, and an inability to transfer balances to an estate. Accordingly, as retirement approaches, Milevsky believes that asset allocation gives way to the “much more important and critical choice” of product allocation, which he defines as “the decision of how much of your retirement income should come from conventional financial instruments such as mutual funds and how much should be generated by pension-like products such as life annuities and variable annuities.”

Money can also be allocated to other retirement products as part of a comprehensive risk-management strategy. Long-term care insurance could have a place, as could life insurance (if only for estate planning purposes). Home equity is a consideration too. Product allocations need not be decided all at once, especially when it comes to annuities. “With interest rates at artificially low rates, annuitizing – and locking in these yields for ever – makes less sense,” Milevsky advises. Better to do it later when rates are higher.

  • While many people can be cautious not to purchase a $200 sweater, it’s the little things – the coffee, the danish, the lottery – that add up over time to financial difficulty, said Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, wrote YorkRegion.com Dec. 29 in a story about personal finance.

For people trying to be careful with their investments, when something is being talked about by friends, neighbours or in the press, it’s probably too late to maximize your return, Milevsky said.

If you’re struggling, pay off your high-interest debts, such as credit cards and auto loans, before you even think about investing, he said.

Misconceptions portrayed

Your Nov. 19 article, “Province’s school Equity Policy problematic for Catholic boards” portrays misconceptions regarding Catholic school boards and anti-discrimination strategies, and I speak from the position of having been part of the writing team that created the Equity Strategy for the Ministry of Education, wrote Chris D’souza, a course director in York’s Faculty of Education, in a letter to the Georgetown Independent & Free Press Dec. 29.

I am also in the process of conducting professional development around its implementation for nine Catholic school boards in the province including Halton. In every workshop I include a quote which says: In 2007, the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops noted that suicide rates among homosexual students were higher than among their heterosexual peers and called for positive action, reinforcing its earlier statement that, “the right of each student to be free of harassment, violence or malice in speech or action is unequivocal and schools carry the clear obligation to provide a positive school environment for ALL students and staff.”

Catholic educators (myself included) promote respect and inclusion for every student no matter their race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, faith, disability or any other identity that makes them unique…all in accordance to our gospel values.

Big splashes in small ponds

With the major museums gasping for cash like whales beached on a dropping economic tide, and the federal government tightening the reins on culture spending, it was the little fish that were still swishing their tails and swimming free, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 30.

There’s the oracular Philip Monk, reigning from his remote perch at the Art Gallery of York University (also an alumnus of both the Power Plant and the AGO), apparently as happy as a clam in the modernist gulag, so long as he can have the freedom to pursue what interests him. This year’s General Idea show (a painstaking reconstitution of two landmark GI shows from the seventies) was a strategic, high-impact reincarnation of recent Canadian art history, while Monk’s exhibition of new work by Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins, earlier in the season, marked the emerging Toronto couple’s best work to date.

Woodstock man faces early diagnosis

As a student in Trinidad, Chait Persad (BA ’79, BEd ’83) clearly recalls getting the highest mark out of 90 other Grade 12 students in mathematics, wrote the Woodstock Sentinel-Review Dec. 30. “Math is my forte,” he explains.

As a first impression, Persad’s memory appear pristine, which is all the more surprising when you learn it’s believed he is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Married in 1963, Chait, 76, and his wife Sukhi, were both teachers when they came to Canada later that year.

Persad, who came to Canada in part because he wanted more education, studied mathematics at York University.

Rotary hosts annual Youth Impact Awards

Each year, Rotary recognizes individuals, organizations and businesses that have had a positive impact on youth in the Toronto area, through a record of meritorious service to youth, practical experience in youth development activities, demonstrated leadership in promoting the importance of helping youth, wrote the Beach-Riverdale Mirror Dec. 30 in a story that included mention of Youth-Under-25-Award recipient Olga Lesau

The Etobicoke School of the Arts (ESA) grad, who’s now studying international business administration at York University, sat as president on her high-school charity club and approached numerous organizations about collaborating on a fundraising initiative to build an elementary school in the Masai Mara region of Kenya through Free the Children.

Also, as a youth coordinator Lesau took on a leadership role with Lakeshore Art’s Art4Hope Benefit Show & Sale, which involved six months of planning all aspects of timed art show and sale, which raised $3,000 in just an hour. Lesau was also vice-president of the student council at ESA, was a clan leader at the fourth World Youth Congress in 2008 and is founder of Étudiants Francophones at York.

Grafton writer’s new book spreads a philosophy of holistic pet health care

When a Northumberland writer’s veterinarian asked her to help write a book on holistic animal health care, it was a perfect storm of her interests – animals and holistic health care, wrote DurhamRegion.com Dec. 30.

“(Vet Paul McCutheon) phoned me up and told me he was ready to put his thinking into a book,” said author Susan Weinstein (BA Comb. Hons. ’91). “He’s not a writer. He’s a vet. His philosophy is rooted in his practice. It’s based on his life’s work, which is how stress affects the health of dogs and cats.”

Since its release in late November, Weinstein’s first book, The New Holistic Way for Dogs & Cats, has introduced a new health-care philosophy to animal lovers. “The most important thing is that we need to have empathy for our pets. We need to really make a commitment, appreciate – and learning even more to appreciate – what their experience must be like,” said Weinstein.

She said because humans have all the power over their animals, it’s up to us to make adjustments to give them better lives. “One of the worst, most serious forms of stress for dogs and cats is loneliness,” said Weinstein. “A lot of people don’t have a lot of choice. They have to go out all day and work.”

There are ways to mitigate the negative effects of all that alone time – whether it’s having someone visit the pet during the day or taking the time to play with the animal after work.

Weinstein grew up in Toronto and moved to Northumberland in 1993. She studied creative writing and journalism at York University, while majoring in sociology and women’s studies.

We should all try to save wonderful historic churches

The St. George’s church is every bit as worthy [as Maple Leaf Gardens] and it’s local, wrote Norman Bell in the Owen Sound Sun Times Jan. 4, in a letter to the editor about efforts to restore the church.

Laurie McBride, a master of art history student at York University, is quoted in the article saying it’s “the most spectacular” of the churches designed by Marshall Aylesworth. Turn the page and you’ll see that the stained glass window therein was designed by “the oldest stained glass studio in North America” and won a bronze at the 1883 Chicago World’s Fair.

Players of interest to NFL

Ricky Foley, defensive lineman, BC: Foley, 27, is a great physical specimen (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) who signed originally with the Baltimore Ravens when he came out of York University, wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 4. After a year starting on the BC Lions’ defensive line, where he had 12 sacks, he’ll probably get another shot at the NFL. As is often the case with defensive linemen, there’s the matter of where he would play in the NFL. Outside linebacker on pass rushing downs, along with special teams, is probable.

Hey Hollywood, let’s be adult

A touch-up to the grey roots could be the right formula to help Hollywood cater to more adult moviegoers in the coming decade, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 1.

York University film Professor Seth Feldman, of the Faculty of Fine Arts, says the lure of boomer stars makes sense for today’s moviegoers. “We want to see ourselves, or what we like to see as ourselves – handsomer, more beautiful, wittier, stronger onscreen,” says Feldman. “These are films that appeal to the experience a lot of people in a particular demographic have had, or have had fantasies about,” he adds, pointing to It’s Complicated. “Almost everybody has an ex out there and the thought of getting back together crosses many minds.”

Feldman says the huge interest in film festivals and the lucrative DVD rental market shows people want to watch smart movies, many of which appeal to older audiences. “They are of a generation taught to take film seriously,” he points out.

But Feldman adds that the movie exhibitors also have to shoulder some of the blame for lack of more mature ticket buyers. “The one thing that stands in the way are the movie theatres themselves,” he says. “It’s not a nice experience anymore. You pay all that money and have to sit through ads; you pay to eat, there’s the hassles of parking.”

Obsession with birds infectious

This is a book about bird watching, and we should start with a definition, wrote The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) Jan. 2 in a review of The Reluctant Twitcher: A Quite Truthful Account of My Big Birding Year by York Professor Emeritus Richard Pope. A twitcher, according to Pope, in this case The Reluctant Twitcher, is someone who “ranges[s] from the merely utterly possessed and [is] driven to the certifiably insane, ready to kill without hesitation to see a real rarity.”

Pope goes on in his preface to define his title: “I am told there are some who might not even know what a Big Year is…. A Big Year is a term widely used in the birding confraternity to describe the attempt to see some improbably high number of birds in a prescribed place in a single year.” For him this is Ontario where, as he puts it, “the gold standard is to try to see 300 birds in a year.”

And that’s what this book is. One man’s record of how he managed to see 300 birds within his own province and within driving distance of his home in Cobourg. So this guy must be retired, right? He is. He was formerly a professor of Russian literature and culture in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. And did he have anyone to help him? He did. First, his accommodating and forgiving wife, then a number of people, but mainly two who accompanied him on all sorts of wild bird chases in all sorts of weather and were ready at a moment’s notice to race off to a possible sighting.

Schulich offers course in tie-up with SP Jain Institute

Providing Indian students the opportunity to do a global MBA within the country, the Toronto-based Schulich School of Business at York University has joined hands with the S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai, to launch its MBA program this January, wrote The Hindu Business Line Jan. 3.

Ranked No. 1 in Canada by Forbes magazine, Schulich has been listed in the top 10 management schools globally by the publication.

Along with other A-listed educational institutions, including Harvard, Schulich is interested in setting up a campus in India. But with the Bill for Foreign Education still being debated in Parliament, the school has decided to launch its MBA program for the time being.

“The course is like a pilot project before we set up a campus in India. India is a complex place that we need to understand and we believe that we will be ready with a campus after two or three batches pass through this course,” said Ashwin Joshi, executive director of the Schulich Program in India.

‘Tough on crime’ stance needs scrutiny

Fiorello La Guardia, the mayor of New York City in the 1930s and ’40s, said, “There is no Democratic or Republican way of cleaning the streets,” wrote James Morton, adjunct professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in the Toronto Star Jan. 3.

“La Guardia made a profound point in a simple way. Some things are not political. There is a right and a wrong way to keep streets clean; the same can be said for criminal justice.

Unfortunately, rather than asking what works, many recent changes to our criminal justice system are based on scoring political points. Pierre Trudeau called for “reason over passion” and he was right. Being “tough on crime” may have political appeal but it accomplishes little and bears significant costs. Prison is sometimes appropriate, as surgery is sometimes appropriate for disease, but a good doctor does not employ surgery for a head cold.

That does not mean prison has no role to play in the justice system. Someone in prison is not committing crimes outside of jail. That said, deterrence and rehabilitation seem to be qualified failures – in fact, increasing the use of jail seems to increase crime and makes reoffending more common.