Great-grandmother who spent 12 hours in jail for bringing CBD oil to Disney World will sue [Updated]

Illustration for article titled Great-grandmother who spent 12 hours in jail for bringing CBD oil to Disney World will sue [Updated]
Photo: rgbspace (iStock), Matt Stroshane/Disney (Getty Images)

Update, May 14, 2019: Some of you likely saw this coming. Civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump and co-counsel Michele Rayner announced today they plan to sue Disney World, Orange County, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for arresting their client Hester Burkhalter in April. The notice of intent to sue will allege illegal detention, false arrest, and a violation of Burkhalter’s civil rights.


Original story, May 8, 2019: Grandparents are riding the CBD wave, too, in particular, one North Carolina great-grandmother whose doctor suggested CBD oil for her arthritis pain. But when that grandmother, 69-year-old Hester Jordan Burkhalter, tried to bring her CBD oil into Disney World, sheriff’s deputies stopped her during a bag check outside Magic Kingdom and arrested her. Fox-35 Orlando reports Burkhalter spent 12 hours in jail on a felony charge that she was in possession of hashish, though the charges were later dropped.

Burkhalter says she was in possession of a doctor’s note and that the CBD oil contained no THC—the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces a high—but Orange County Sheriff’s authorities still detained her until she posted $2,000 bond. Police reports obtained by Fox-35 show a police officer tested the oil, and it did test positive for THC.

The sheriff’s office maintains the deputy was just doing his job; any form of CBD is illegal in Florida unless a person possesses a prescription. Burkhalter’s lawyer says CBD is a murky gray area, as CBD is sold in stores and leads people to assume it’s legal.


Despite CBD’s inclusion in oils, gummies, candy, and burgers, the U.S. Food And Drug Administration has not approved it for general use in food. A public meeting is scheduled for May 31 to solicit comments and hear feedback on the FDA’s regulation of cannabis-derived compounds. Until the FDA rules, expect confusion over CBD’s legality in certain products to persist.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.


Dr Emilio Lizardo

This story raises several of the problems with legalized cannabinoids, although not all these problems apply to CBD, which is an even bigger grey area than cannabis.

First of all, most of the evidence of benefit is anecdotal because very few large, good studies have been done. That makes it prone to sensationalistic claims and allows hucksters to harm vulnerable people. But you can’t really do studies because the DEA still has cannibis as a schedule 1 drug (no redeeming value) and it is very hard to do studies on schedule 1 drugs in humans.  The lack of regulation means you don’t necessarily know what you are getting either.

Second of all, you probably can’t get a “prescription” for it, even where it is legal. Prescribing licenses come from the federal DEA, and since it is a schedule 1 drug, physicians can’t get a license to prescribe it. In Illinois, for instance, a patient needs a physicians certification that they have a medical condition recognized by the state of Illinois that can benefit from cannabis. There is a ton of paperwork for a physician to be allowed to make that certification and a ton of paperwork on behalf of the patient as well. At no time does a physician write a prescription for it. And the list of conditions was clearly created through political lobbying, not medical evidence.

Third, it is still illegal to transport it across state lines because possession is still a federal crime. Even if you obtain it legally in one state and carry it to another state where you can legally possess it, you have committed a Federal crime. You can not have it on Federal land, either. You may think you can take your weed to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, but you can’t. The last administration didn’t much care, so you could do it and avoid jail. This one is obviously less progressive.

The whole quasi-legal and patchwork nature of this has created quite a few problems.