Great-grandmother with CBD oil arrested at Disney World
Disney World may be the most magical place on Earth, but it turned into a legal nightmare for a great-grandmother with arthritis.
A 69-year-old woman was arrested at a Disney World checkpoint when an Orange County Deputy found CBD oil in her purse. She then spent 12 hours behind bars before being released on a $2,000 bond.
Hester Jordan Burkhalter, a great-grandmother from North Carolina, began using CBD oil for her arthritis after her doctor recommended it, Fox 35 in Orlando reported. She even had a note from the medical professional in her purse at the time of arrest, but it didn’t matter.
Burkhalter told Fox 35 that she had been planning on the trip for two years. “I have really bad arthritis in my legs, in my arms and in my shoulder,” she said. “I use (CBD oil) for the pain because it helps.” When she was stopped by security outside of the Magic Kingdom, however, she was arrested. “I’ve never had one speeding ticket in my life.”
Despite the fact that it’s sold on store shelves across the state, CBD oil is still technically illegal in the state of Florida (unless the user has a prescription). This has created a confusing situation in the Sunshine State.
Jennifer Synnamon, a Florida attorney, told Fox 35, “a little drop of oil, with the CBD, is a felony. Meanwhile, you can have up to 19.9 grams of leaf-marijuana, and it’s a first-degree misdemeanor.”
While the Orange County Sheriff’s Office told Fox 35 that their deputy was just following the law, the charges against Burkhalter were eventually dropped.
In a statement provided to Fox News, Burkhalter’s lawyer Jennifer Synnamon said “I’m very disappointed that the Orange County Sheriff’s Office handled the situation the way they did. Why Sheriff Mina would support his deputies using their resources for a CBD oil arrest of a 69-year-old woman, but then won’t do anything about the gas stations, health food stores, drug stores, etc. that are selling it to the open public is absolutely beyond my comprehension. The State of Florida finds nothing wrong with collecting the sales tax on illegal products, but they allow prosecution for possession of the same. I want to commend Aramis Ayala’s office for reviewing the case and swiftly determining that they would not prosecute.”
UPDATE: The Orange County Sheriff’s Office provided Fox News with the following statement: “This was a lawful arrest, as possession of CBD oil is currently a felony under Florida State Statute and Deputies are responsible for enforcing Florida law and Orange County ordinances. Although CBD oil is illegal without a prescription, our top drug enforcement priority and focus at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is to get deadly drugs, like heroin and fentanyl, off the streets of our community.”
Michael Hollan is an associate lifestyle editor for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent on Twitter: @M_Hollan
Grandma Files Lawsuit After She Was Arrested For Having CBD Oil In Purse At Disney
MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) – A grandmother who was arrested for having CBD oil in her purse has filed a civil lawsuit against several entities including, The Walt Disney Co. and the Orange County Sheriff.
Attorney Ben Crump said Hester Burkhalter, a 69-year-old woman, “was wrongfully arrested and taken into custody at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for possessing federally legal CBD oil” in 2019.
CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory derived from the cannabis plant.
According to Crump and a July 29 complaint, a lawsuit has been filed in the Circuit Court of the 9th Judicial Circuit in Orange County against The Walt Disney Company and a number of its executives as well as the Orange County Sheriff and a number of its deputies alleging illegal detention, false arrest and violation of civil rights. The suit requests $6 million in compensatory damages and $12 million in punitive damages for Burkhalter, as well as millions of additional dollars for her family, according to the complaint.
“The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has not been served with a lawsuit, but in any case, we don’t comment on possible pending litigation,” it said in an email to CNN on Wednesday.
CNN has reached out to The Walt Disney Co. and has not heard back.
“Defendants Disney and uniformed local law enforcement officials acting at its direction and under its authority as a Florida landowner … arrested and detained, processed as a narcotics felon and strip-searched a harmless, entirely blameless American great-grandmother, whose only ‘crime’ was her desire to lessen crippling osteoarthritic pain with a doctor-recommended hemp-based oil, while giving her family, including a disabled adult daughter and two adopted pre-teen children, an enjoyable vacation at the ‘Disney World’s entertainment complex near Orlando,” a complaint filed July 29 reads. “The disgraceful events that animate this lawsuit ‘pull back the curtain’ on the casual cruelty and unpardonable ineptitude that lie at Disney’s cold corporate heart.”
According to accounts from Crump and Burkhalter during the news conference and the complaint, Burkhalter traveled with her husband, daughter, and two adopted children, ages 8 and 10, from Hickory to visit Walt Disney World last year, a trip Crump said Burkhalter had spent over two years saving up for. After spending April 14 at various Disney parks, the family arrived at the Magic Kingdom on April 15 where the complaint says Burkhalter was asked to remove the contents of her bag while going through security. According to Crump, Burkhalter opened her bag and placed her belongings, which included a one ounce container of CBD oil, into a security bin.
During the press conference, Burkhalter told security agents she used CBD oil to treat advanced arthritis per her doctor’s recommendation. When asked if her substance contained THC, Burkhalter said she did not know, although the bottle read 0% THC, according to the complaint.
A sheriff’s deputy then tested the substance twice, getting a negative result the first time and positive result the second time, according to the complaint.
According to Crump and the complaint, Burkhalter was then separated from her family and placed under arrest for felony drug possession. She was subjected to drug sniffing dogs, vomited during transport, and requested and was denied medical care, the complaint alleges. When Burkhalter arrived at the detention facility, she had her mug shot taken and was then escorted to an adjacent room “where she was instructed by other officers to strip naked and to ‘bend over’ for a body cavity search,” according to the complaint.
“It was the most humiliating day of my life,” Burkhalter said during Wednesday’s news conference.
Crump, who is representing the family of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis, in a separate lawsuit, brought up Floyd’s verbalized anxiety as police officers tried to force him into the back of the car shortly before his death. Burkhalter said she too told police officers that she could not breathe.
“I even told them that I could not breathe before I finally got out,” Burkhalter said. “I felt like I was going to pass out and I started throwing up and the only comment was that one officer who said, ‘She’s throwing up,’ like it was no big deal. I don’t understand it.”
Crump said they have asked Disney for an apology which, according to Crump, it has not given. Crump said the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has been mostly silent except in trying to “defend their indefensible actions.”
Burkhalter’s son posted bail on April 15, 2019, and she was released shortly after midnight, ending a nearly 15-hour “ordeal,” according to the complaint. The Burkhalters were then told if they tried to go back on Disney property, they would be arrested for trespassing, a restriction lifted in a May 9, 2019 letter to her attorneys from Disney security, according to information disclosed during the news conference.
(©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)
Body camera video shows grandmother’s CBD oil arrest at Disney
Deputies accommodated woman’s medical needs, allowed her to sit in front
Emilee Speck , Digital journalist
Orange County deputy body camera video shows a grandmother’s CBD oil arrest at Walt Disney World. The charges were later dropped.
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Body camera video recorded by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies involved in the arrest and transport of a 69-year-old grandmother on suspicion of CBD oil possession at Walt Disney World shows the deputies worked to accommodate her when she started having a medical episode.
Hester Burkhalter, of Tennessee, was arrested April 15 when Disney security found a vial of cannabinoid oil, or CBD oil, in her purse when she handed it over to be searched at Magic Kingdom. The charges were later dropped.
Burkhalter said she has arthritis and her doctor instructed her to try the oil to help.
It is illegal to possess CBD oil in the state of Florida without a medical marijuana card; however, federally the oil which is extracted from the flowers of marijuana plants but doesn’t produce a high, is legal.
The 69-year-old said the off-duty deputy who detained and arrested her never asked if the oil contained THC and treated her unfairly when she asked for medical help. Her family announced it plans to sue the Sheriff’s Office and Walt Disney World.
More than an hour of body camera footage reviewed by News 6 does not show mistreatment.
Burkhalter, was one of two people stopped with CBD oil at the security checkpoint on April 15, according to the video. Another person had a vape pin, cannabis and CBD oil, a deputy said in the video.
[Questions about using CBD in Florida? Click here for more information.]
According to the body camera video, when another deputy arrived to transport Burkhalter and the other person to the jail center and placed them both in the back of his Sheriff’s Office patrol SUV, Burkhalter said she couldn’t breathe.
Body camera video released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office shows the arrest of a great-grandmother who brought CBD oil to Disney.
“I can’t breathe, I feel like I’m going to pass out,” Burkhalter is heard saying in the video, adding that she gets claustrophobic. She asked the deputies if she could be transported alone.
The deputy allowed the 69-year-old out of the back seat while he called his supervising lieutenant to request another vehicle.
“The older female said she gets claustrophobic, and feels like she’s going to pass out, and wants somebody else so she can go by herself,” he said in the call.
According to the video, only four deputies were in the area and two of them were at the park.
Even when a Disney employee said to the deputy, “She’s delaying her own transfer” and “You can’t to convince her?” The deputy responded, “No, I’m not driving anywhere with her if she’s claiming a panic attack.”
Another deputy adds, “She says she gets claustrophobic in the back of the car and she just threw up.”
After waiting a few minutes to hear back from his supervisor, the deputy was told to put Burkhalter in the front passenger seat and another patrol car would be sent to pick up the other person suspected of CBD oil possession.
The video shows the deputy rearranged his patrol car to allow Burkhalter to sit in the front seat and even cleaned off the seat, and helped her into the SUV.
On the way to the Orange County Jail center the deputy answers Burkhalter’s questions about processing and what to expect during her first appearance in front of a judge.
He asked her if the “AC is hitting you at all” to which she says it is.
“This is much better. Thank you so much,” she told the deputy, thanking him several times during her transport. “I couldn’t breathe back there.”
After they arrived at the jail center, at Burkhalter’s request, the deputy readjusted her handcuffs and helped her out of the front seat.