Florida woman arrested for cbd oil

Crime and Public Safety

Attorney Ben Crump has filed a civil lawsuit against several entities on behalf of Hester Burkhalter, a 69-year-old White woman from Hickory, North Carolina, and her family. Crump said she “was wrongfully arrested and taken into custody at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for possessing federally legal CBD oil” in 2019. (WESH)

Attorney Ben Crump has filed a civil lawsuit against several entities including, The Walt Disney Co. and the Orange County Sheriff, on behalf of Hester Burkhalter, a 69-year-old White woman from Hickory, North Carolina, and her family.

Crump said she “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.

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N.C. Woman, 69, Arrested Outside Disney World After Security Finds Her CBD Oil for Her Arthritis

A North Carolina woman found herself behind bars after police discovered CBD oil in her purse outside Disney World.

Hester Burkhalter, 69, was arrested and spent eight hours in jail after security outside Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, found the oil on April 15, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by PEOPE.

The great-grandmother told FOX 35 Orlando that she uses the oil as per her doctor’s recommendation to ease her arthritis symptoms.

“I have really bad arthritis in my legs and in my arms and in my shoulder and I use it for the pain because it helps,” she told the outlet, adding that she had a doctor’s note in her purse.

Burkhalter’s CBD oil tested positive for THC, the chemical responsible for the high that accompanies marijuana — despite the fact that the bottle reportedly claimed it contained zero milligrams of THC.

She was booked on third-degree felony charges of possession of hashish, according to the affidavit.

RELATED VIDEO: Whoopi Goldberg Founds Medical Marijuana Company for Women

CBD oil is extracted from hemp, which is in the same plant family as marijuana but contains very little THC, and not enough to get you high, according to CBS News.

Capt. Carlos Torres of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office told FOX 35 that because the deputy knew CBD oil was illegal, he had probable cause to arrest Burkhalter.

“He certainly acted within the scope of the law,” Torres said. “[Buying CBD oil] is a risk because you don’t know what you’re buying. Just because you’re buying it at a store doesn’t make it okay, and doesn’t make it legal.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s laws regarding CBD are hazy, as hemp is illegal in the state, but there is no consensus among officials as to whether or not federal law, which differentiates hemp from marijuana, trumps Florida law.

Burkhalter was released from jail on a $2,000 bond, a spokesperson for Orange County Corrections told PEOPLE.

Though the charges have been dropped, according to Fox 35, the incident certainly put a damper on her highly-anticipated trip.

“We had planned on this trip for over two years and we saved up for it and we were real excited,” she told the outlet. “I didn’t know what to think, I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t feel like I’d done nothing wrong.”

Burkhalter’s lawyer Jennifer Synnamon told Fox News in a statement she was “very disappointed” by how the incident was handled.

“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,” she said.

Spokespersons for Disney World did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Woman Files Lawsuit After 2019 CBD Oil Arrest at Disney World

ORLANDO, Fla. — Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has filed a civil lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company on behalf of Hester Burkhalter, a North Carolina grandmother who was arrested at Magic Kingdom in April 2019 after security found CBD oil in her purse.

What You Need To Know
  • North Carolina woman arrested last year at Disney World for CBD oil
  • Hester Burkhalter’s attorneys have filed lawsuit against Disney
  • Burkhalter is being represented by civil rights lawyer Ben Crump
  • RELATED: Woman in Disney CBD Oil Arrest: Body-Cam Video Proves Wrongful Arrest

According to Crump, Burkhalter had the “CBD oil per her doctor’s recommendation to treat her advance arthritis.”

Burkhalter was arrested and charged with possession of hashish. The charges were later dropped.

“Disney’s stated mission is to make everyone’s dreams come true. Instead, they turned a harmless grandmother’s expensive Disney vacation into a nightmare by treating her like a criminal with the full participation of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office,” Crump said in a statement Wednesday about the lawsuit. “We have given Disney and Orange County several chances to own their mistakes and make this right. The arrogance, complacency and lack of corporate responsibility demonstrated by these organizations demand correction and justice.”

Crump told Spectrum News in April 2019 they were seeking a public apology from Walt Disney World.

Body camera footage released by Orange County Sheriff’s Office at the time shows deputies meeting with Burkhalter after being stopped by security officers at a checkpoint in front of Magic Kingdom.

In the footage, an Orange County deputy is heard saying, “If it doesn’t test positive for THC, then she can have it back.” Deputies tested her oil with a marijuana test kit.

“This does not contain THC,” the deputy is heard saying on the body camera footage. “This is not criminal. It is not criminal to have that.”

Despite finding the oil to be legal, deputies tested it again.

This is when Burkhalter attorney Michelle Rayner-Goolsby said they showed their true intentions.

“At that point that it did not come back positive for THC, you needed to allow her to go back into the park and enjoy this trip with her family,” Rayner-Goolsby said. “But for whatever reason, they were hell bent on arresting her, arresting somebody, that day.”

Two weeks after Burkhalter’s arrest, the Sheriff’s Office issued new guidance for deputies outlining the state’s law on CBD that said “…because of the confusion surrounding CBD, deputies are encouraged to consult on-call Narcotics or Legal prior to effectuating an arrest or seizing CBD.”

Spectrum News reached out to Disney and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office about the lawsuit, but as of Wednesday had not received a response.