Pubdate: Thu, 22 Jul 2010
Source: Monday Magazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Monday Publications
Author: Jason Youmans
Cited: Greater Victoria Housing Society
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal - Canada)

Pot Shot


An Esquimalt woman says a local social housing organization is trying
to evict her from her home of two-and-a-half years for using cannabis
to treat her chronic conditions.

Christina Goluch, who suffers from debilitating arthritis and lupus
and has Health Canada permission to possess and use medical cannabis,
says she is the target of a campaign by the site manager of the
Greater Victoria Housing Society's Lions Lodge to rid the building of
marijuana smokers, many of whom, says Goluch, are elderly and disabled
and consume the drug to treat a variety of maladies.

"I've never gotten any real legal advice and so don't really know
where I stand," says the 58-year-old. "I'm just sort of bobbing in the
ocean alone, and really, everyone's looking on to see what's going to
happen, because it will be a major victory for the medical marijuana
community if I get the right to stay."

On April 29, Goluch was issued a one-month notice to end tenancy for
cause on the grounds that her behaviour-which Goluch says is limited
to smoking cannabis-"significantly interfered with, or unreasonably
disturbed another occupant or the landlord," and that her actions,
"seriously jeopardized the health or safety or lawful right of another
occupant or the landlord."

While the particulars are not spelled out in the documents Goluch
provided Monday, she says the matter hinges on a complaint-real or
fabricated-about the smell of marijuana emanating from her apartment
when she smokes. But Goluch says that her door is sealed to BC Hydro
standards and she jams a mat under it when she lights up. There's a
ventilation system immediately outside her door that circulates the
air in the hallway, as well as a window usually left open immediately
adjacent to her apartment, which is at the end of a corridor.

Despite what Goluch says are her ongoing to attempts to mitigate any
odour emanating from her apartment, documents served by the landlord
insist that, "Breach of material term of the tenancy was not corrected
within a reasonable time after written notice to do so."

A further twist to Goluch's story is the fact the Lions Lodge is a
smoke-friendly building, which is to say, residents are permitted to
puff tobacco to their hearts' content inside their units.

Goluch missed her initial Residential Tenancy Branch arbitration
hearing on the matter, citing a dispute with a neighbouring tenant
that aggravated her conditions and made it impossible to attend. At
that point, Goluch was given two days to vacate the apartment and
faced homelessness. The Residential Tenancy Branch has granted her
another opportunity to appeal her eviction, but the boxes remain
packed in her apartment if her pleas should fall on deaf ears.

A letter from Goluch's physician, Dr. Daniel Buie, to the housing
society hints at the toll the ongoing eviction is taking on his
patient. "This decision seems totally unfair and is definitely very
detrimental to the health of this seriously ill woman. Please
reconsider. I would be willing to discuss this with any officials,"
reads Buie's missive.

Greater Victoria Housing Society executive director Kaye Melliship
would not comment on the specifics of Goluch's case, citing privacy
concerns. She did, however, add, "All I can say is that perhaps you
are not getting all of the story. We have a good process. As a
landlord, we use the Residential Tenancy Act and all the procedures
and policies of the Residential Tenancy Act and we are using that. And
we strongly encourage our tenants to participate in that as well,
because it can often result in some good outcomes. But people have to
make choices and sometimes they don't always want to

Al Kemp, CEO of the Rental Owners and Managers Society of B.C. says
the RTB adjudicator hearing Goluch's appeal will be less concerned
about her medication regime than how it affects her

"It's not really whether you're allowed to smoke," says Kemp. "It's
whether or not your smoking disturbs other tenants, and the wording in
the Residential Tenancy Act that's relevant is "seriously disturbs"
other tenants quiet enjoyment. The bottom line is that she may have a
federal exemption permitting her to smoke, but she does not have in
that certificate permission to disturb other tenants."

Philippe Lucas, a Victoria city councillor and former executive
director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, has planted
himself in Goluch's corner. He says he will attend her appeal hearing
in an effort to educate the adjudicator about current legislation
governing the use of medical cannabis for federal exemptees.

"If it was a non-smoking building she would be at the losing end of
this argument," says Lucas. "But because it's a tobacco-smoking
building and if she was smoking tobacco rather than cannabis there
would be no issue at all, that creates a big problem for me in terms
of her personal rights and her medical needs."

Lucas continues, "I just see this as a wrongful eviction of a
chronically ill woman who is in her full legal rights to be using a
medicine that, yes, is controversial, but quite frankly that deserves
some level of sympathy, compassion and understanding from the Greater
Victoria Housing Society." 
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