grandma arrested in florida for cbd oil

Grandma Files Lawsuit After She Was Arrested For Having CBD Oil In Purse At Disney

MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) – A grandmother who was arrested for having CBD oil in her purse has filed a civil lawsuit against several entities including, The Walt Disney Co. and the Orange County Sheriff.

Attorney Ben Crump said Hester Burkhalter, a 69-year-old woman, “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.

(©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)

Grandmother sues Disney after being arrested for carrying CBD oil

A woman who was arrested at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom after security found a bottle of CBD oil in her purse is suing the Disney company.

Hester Burkhalter, 69, a grandmother from North Carolina, was reportedly arrested for felony drug possession in Orlando, Florida, after Disney security found the bottle when she placed her purse on a table for inspection in April 2019.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump has since filed suit against Disney, the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department on Burkhalter’s behalf, TMZ reports.

According to the lawsuit, Burkhalter was arrested, detained and handcuffed at the time of her visit, despite explaining to authorities that the CBD oil was doctor-prescribed for treatment for her advanced arthritis and did not contain THC.

The complaint states that a sheriff’s deputy tested the oil for THC twice, getting a negative result the first time and positive result the second time, according to CNN.

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The legal filing also alleges that Burkhalter panicked and subsequently vomited while in the back of the police car but did not receive medical attention.

The 69-year-old, who described the ordeal as “traumatising” for her young grandchildren, was then taken to jail where she was reportedly subjected to a strip search.

In May, the charges were dropped against Burkhalter after prosecutors said the case wasn’t suitable for prosecution.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, but it does not get you “high”. According to the World Health Organisation, “in humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential” and “to date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

Despite the charges being dropped, Burkhalter has filed the suit, in which she alleges assault and battery, false arrest and imprisonment, defamation and emotional distress, because she still feels “traumatised,” according to TMZ.

“It was the most humiliating day of my life,” Burkhalter said during a press conference Wednesday.

She is seeking $18m in damages plus additional damages for her husband and other family members, TMZ reports.

During the press conference, Crump said: “We have given Disney and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office several opportunities to apologise. Disney remains silent.”