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.
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.
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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.