A 69-year-old woman who was arrested at Walt Disney World for having CBD oil says she intends to sue Disney and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Hester Burkhalter of Hickory, North Carolina was on vacation with her family at Disney World when a security officer searching her purse found the CBD oil, which is currently illegal in Florida without a prescription. CBD is legal at the federal level, though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it’s not allowed as an ingredient in food, drinks or dietary supplements, which hasn’t stopped a variety of CBD-infused products from coffees to gummy bears from being offered throughout the country.
Burkhalter’s attorney, Ben Crump, who previously represented clients such as Trayvon Martin’s family, said Burkhalter was told by sheriff’s deputies that her oil contained THC — a claim her attorneys allege is false — and further claim that officers refused to acknowledge that she had a prescription for the oil from her doctor. The charges against her were dropped late last month.
“Her family’s dream vacation will always be remembered as a nightmare complete with 12 hours detained in jail after this false arrest,” Crump and attorney Michele Rayner said in a statement. “We expect better from Walt Disney World and demand a public apology while we pursue all avenues for justice for her.”
Disney said the issue is now a matter for law enforcement. In a statement to Spectrum News 13, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said it thinks Burkhalter was arrested lawfully, but emphasized its top drug enforcement priorities “is to get deadly drugs, like heroin, and fentanyl, off the streets of our community.”
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found inside cannabis that doesn’t produce a high like the plant’s more well-known active ingredient, THC. The limited amount of clinical research on CBD involving humans, such as a 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, indicate that the dosage of CBD you’ll find in most consumer products is too low to have any effect. Nevertheless, CBD products have become popular thanks to anecdotal claims about the compound’s ability to relieve anxiety, stress and pain. In Burkhalter’s case, she said it was prescribed for her arthritis.
Not all of its health claims are unproven; the FDA has approved a CBD product called Epidolex for the treatment of two rare seizure disorders.
Disney has maintained an anti-marijuana stance despite growing acceptance and legalization throughout the U.S. While it’s not as much of an issue in Florida, out in California, where recreational marijuana is legal, Disney’s official policy does not permit marijuana on its property because it “remains illegal under federal law.”
That hasn’t stopped Disney fans from finding ways around the private property ban. Legal dispensaries are located just minutes away from Disneyland and fan-made resources are available online, like A Stoner’s Guide to Disneyland.
Burkhalter and other CBD oil users may have nothing to fear for future Disney World trips. Legislation passed by the Florida House and Senate and awaiting Gov. DeSantis’ signature would legalize CBD products in the state beginning July 1.
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