The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal recently ordered a Port Alberni pub to give a man $10,000 after they banned him from the establishment for rolling a joint during two occasions in 2019.
In a decision posted on Sept. 28, the tribunal said the Ocean Marina Hotel discriminated against retired RCMP officer Robin Hayes when they banned him from the pub in May 2019.
The ban came after staff at the pub asked Hayes to stop rolling a marijuana cigarette inside the business on Feb. 26, 2019, and then again on May 6, 2019, when he was ultimately banned.
Hayes has a medical prescription for cannabis to help treat his PTSD from roughly two decades working as a police officer.
He was told by staff that he could not roll a joint inside the pub unless it was in the bathroom, or he could come with the cannabis already prepared.
Hayes argued that he does not pre-roll his cannabis so that he can better pace himself, and that his medical cannabis supply is limited, so he only uses it on a “needs be” basis.
He added that it felt discriminatory to have to roll his joints in the bathroom, which are relatively unsanitary and also made him feel isolated and that he was doing something illicit or morally wrong.
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The pub told the human rights tribunal that Hayes’ actions were disturbing other guests and that it feared it would lose business because customers would leave.
BCHT member Amber Prince said in her decision that she appreciates that cannabis was only legal in Canada for about a year before the two incidents took place, but that customer’s supposed comfort levels aren’t enough to outweigh discrimination.
“Even if I had sufficient evidence that the cannabis was bothering customers, I would need to consider, as discussed earlier, that customer preference is not a defence to discrimination,” wrote Prince.
“Finally, even if Mr. Hayes’ cannabis created an odour, odour alone does not generally amount to undue hardship,” she wrote.
The tribunal awarded Hayes with $10,000 for “injury to his dignity,” partly because Port Alberni is a small town and he felt like his ban from the pub labelled him as a “bad guy” and barred him from participating in some social events in a place where venues are limited.
He added that he felt ridiculed and isolated for using his cannabis prescription to treat his PTSD, which Prince said should not happen to anyone with a medical condition.
Last month’s decision follows two other human rights tribunal decisions that Hayes won, which occurred in 2021 and 2022, and also involved being removed from pubs in Port Alberni for preparing joints.