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BC Human Rights Tribunal to decide whether Osoyoos motel discriminated against pot-smoking guest

Kicked out for smoking pot?

An Osoyoos motel that allegedly evicted a disabled guest for smoking marijuana on their property will be heading for a hearing with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

Sun Beach Motel is facing a complaint from Vicky Arvanitis, who stayed there from July 31 to Aug. 1, 2020.

According to a recent public tribunal decision dated Nov. 7, 2023, Sun Beach management asked Arvanitis to leave after they claimed she was smoking marijuana in her room, contrary to their no smoking policy.

Arvanitis denies smoking at Sun Beach, stating she is prescribed medical marijuana for a disability and only smoked off motel property.

In her civil suit, she alleges that in evicting her, Sun Beach guest accommodation violated the human rights code by stopping her from staying at a motel normally available to the public.

According to the decision, Arvanitis said she made the motel aware of her disability when she told them she had a service dog, and obtained an exemption from their no-pets policy.

When she checked in, Sun Beach said they provided her with their no smoking policy which “explicitly states that smoking is prohibited in motel guest rooms at all times and that there is a designated area where guests can smoke and that individuals smoking marijuana in the guest rooms or common area may be asked to leave."

She says that she was aware of the no-smoking policy, and says she did not inform Sun Beach of her medical marijuana prescription at check in because she did not intend to smoke at Sun Beach.

On the morning of Aug. 1, Arvanitis says she smoked a marijuana cigarette at a park near Sun Beach.

She claims that upon returning to the motel, she put the cigarette butt in the ashtray that Sun Beach provided outside her room.

Arvanitis denies smoking on the motel property and said that this was the only butt in the ashtray outside her room during her stay.

Arvanitis further says that during her time on Aug. 1 at Sun Beach, she was wearing a bathing suit depicting marijuana plants, and alleges that motel management was following her and watching her closely.

Sun Beach property management alleges they smelled marijuana near Arvanitis’ room and had observed Arvanitis smoking inside the doorway of her room, with a container of marijuana buds and marijuana butts near her and that upon seeing this, they reminded her of the motel’s no smoking policy.

Sun Beach alleges that Arvanitis responded by yelling and claiming discrimination. Arvanitis denies that description of her behaviour, instead claiming she stayed calm and told them she had a prescription for medical marijuana due to a disability, and offered to show it to the managers, but they declined. She also maintains she did not smoke in the room.

Arvanitis argues it is discriminatory to provide ashtrays for cigarette smokers, but to evict medical marijuana users who smoke in designated smoking areas.

She claims that the manager responded by telling her she was evicted, that she was calling the RCMP to remove her from her room, saying: “We don’t want people like you at our motel.”

Arvanitis left Sun Beach that day, after receiving a refund for the pre-paid next night.

The motel applied to have Arvanitis' initial complaint dismissed, but BC Human Rights Tribunal member Andrea Duncan said that the motel did not establish that there was no connection between Arvanitis' disability and the eviction, and therefore, Arvanitis' complaint will proceed to a formal hearing.

"I make no decision as to whether discrimination occurred," Duncan wrote.

"I find that if Arvanitis is able to prove that her disability was a factor in Sun Beach’s decision to evict her, and that she was discriminated against as she alleges, it would serve both her interests and the interests of the public to identify and take steps to remediate this alleged discriminatory practice."

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