A retired RCMP officer has been awarded $2,500 in a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruling in what appears to be the second incident of discrimination for cannabis use he’s faced in as many months.
Robin Hayes, who uses medical-grade cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his years in the force, was denied service at the Blue Marlin during a meat raffle event in July 2019 after “discreetly” rolling a joint while drinking a beer, according to a recent tribunal decision.
His server noticed him rolling his cannabis cigarette and told him he could not do that at his table, despite his insistence that it was for medical purposes and permitted. Recreational cannabis was legalized in 2018.
Hayes said that after going outside to smoke the joint, he came back inside the restaurant and ordered another beer from a different server before returning to his table in the rear corner of the room.
When he went to get another drink, he was told he would not be served and would have to leave.
“He tried to explain that it is legal for him to possess cannabis and that it is for medical purposes, but the server was very angry and wanted him kicked out,” documents read.
Shortly after, Hayes was told the local RCMP had been called. As he waited outside for police to arrive, Hayes told the tribunal he felt very embarrassed to be reported to police, given his career in law enforcement.
The police did not arrive.
After the incident, Hayes attempted to explain the rules of cannabis to those working at the Blue Marlin – once over the phone, to which he was hung up on – and once in person, with an information sheet in hand, to which the server who had been involved in the initial incident “turned her back and walked away.”
In a statement to the tribunal, Hayes said he doesn’t expect all to share the same opinion as he about medical uses for cannabis, but that the lawful use is clearly outlined, and the incident left him feeling ostracized.
“I don’t feel that I should have to hide and prepare my medical cannabis in a back alley or bathroom or to be singled out for the use of medical cannabis,” he said. “As a person that’s fully compliant with the law and has a history of law enforcement ‐ as a peace officer no less – it is very humiliating.”
According to the decision, Blue Marlin argued that it has the right to “refuse service to anyone and everyone” at any time. In their decision, tribunal member Emily Ohler argued that given Hayes’ possession of medical cannabis is directly related to his disability, even if the restaurant had a policy in place that prohibits such behaviour, they were obligated to discuss options to have accommodated Hayes.
“What is clear is that it was discriminatory,” Ohler concluded, noting that it would be no different than if Hayes had been taking a pill as treatment.
In addition to the $2,500 compensation, the Blue Marlin was ordered to train staff on the laws related to medical cannabis users.
This is the second monetary award Hayes has won through the tribunal. Prior documents show that Hayes kicked out of the Port Sports Pub in May 2019 for a nearly identical reason: rolling a joint discreetly on his lap. In December 2021, he was awarded $1,500 – broken down as $1,000 from the pub and $500 from a server at the pub.