Grandma Arrested At Disney For Having CBD Oil In Purse
Cannabis patients still face persecution and wrongful arrest.
This April, Hester Jordan Burkhalter was on a family vacation to Disney World in Florida when she was arrested outside the Magic Kingdom. The charge? Possession of CBD oil. The 69-year-old grandmother had travelled from North Carolina for some R&R and was shocked and confused when security confiscated her CBD.
CBD has entered a legal gray area in the US following federal changes to hemp laws and the incident at Disney World is just one example of the injustices that can occur from conflicting regulations. CBD is still illegal on a state level but openly sold by legal retailers in Florida. Patients are understandably confused about what’s allowed.
The police crackdown on CBD in Florida has been focused on retailers, so Burkhalter’s arrest is unusual. However, it highlights the need for clearer protocol that protects the rights of citizens trying their best to medicate legally.
Wrongful Arrest Over CBD at Disney’s Magic Kingdom
For two years, Burkhalter and her family had been planning a vacation to Florida’s Disney World. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite what they’d hoped.
Security stopped Burkhalter at a checkpoint outside the Magic Kingdom on 15 April. Security confiscated a marked bottle of CBD oil from her purse, which had been prescribed by her doctor in North Carolina for arthritis in her legs, arm, and shoulder. She was also carrying her doctor’s recommendation that outlined her condition. This was not sufficient for security, however, who pressed the senior to tell them if the bottle contained THC. When she refused, security called the police.
Officers stated in an arrest affidavit obtained by USA Today: “(Burkhalter) was advised the contents of the glass bottle will be tested for THC. I tested the substance … using a Marijuana presumptive drug test kit; the kit turned Red, indicating a presumptive positive result for the presence of THC.”
They arrested Burkhalter and brought her into custody for possession of hashish. The wrongful arrest of Burkhalter led to a felony charge, as possession of hash is illegal in Florida. She spent 12 hours in custody before they finally released her on a $2,000 bail.
Burkhalter spoke to Fox 35 following the incident. In the interview she explained, “I have really bad arthritis in my legs, in my arms and in my shoulder. I use (CBD oil) for the pain because it helps.” Burkhalter also spoke to the news outlet about her arrest, claiming, “I didn’t know what to think. I’ve never had one speeding ticket in my life.”
Wrongful Arrest the Result of Messy CBD Laws
The arrest of Burkhalter is all the more frustrating because, at present, CBD isn’t regulated in Florida at all.
The US federal government passed the Farm Bill in 2018, which removed hemp from the illegal drugs list. The new law regulates the production of hemp. Growers must obtain a license and ensure that their product does not contain more than 0.3% THC. Unfortunately, the Farm Bill failed to lay out a legal framework for byproducts of hemp, such as CBD oil. This is where confusion arises. Some legal experts argue that federal law overrides state law but others disagree.
So, in Florida, while state law criminalizes hemp, federal law does not. Since federal law changed, gas stations, drug stores, and head shops across Florida have started selling CBD products. With the exception of a couple of raids, police have taken a hands-off approach towards businesses selling CBD.
This is why this arrest is so confusing. Burkhalter’s lawyer, Jennifer Synnamon, stressed this opinion in her statement to Fox 35. “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,” Synnamon told the news outlet.
America Needs Clear CBD Laws
Burkhalter’s story ended far more positively than other tales from America’s drug war. Media pressure and public outrage over her wrongful arrest led police to drop the charges. However mild the punishment, though, America’s persecution of legal cannabis patients is continues a pattern of injustice.
This incident shows the urgent need for federal cannabis reform, especially around hot topic products like CBD. One by one, states are changing their laws but the federal government continues to ignore popular opinion on the subject. Meanwhile, patients who need or use cannabis are suffering for it. Until American voters pressure their federal representatives into creating sensible cannabis policy on a federal level, patients like Burkhalter will continue to be the victims of our failed war on cannabis.