Grandmother suing Disney World after CBD oil arrest files to move case to federal court
ORLANDO, Fla. – A grandmother who was arrested outside Walt Disney World after having CBD oil on property is suing the theme park company — and she’s taking her case to federal court.
Hester Burkhalter, 69, was arrested in April 2019 after Disney security found a bottle of CBD oil while searching her purse at a security checkpoint. She has since filed a lawsuit against Walt Disney World, with her team of attorneys requesting to move the case out of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orange County and move it to a higher court.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing Burkhalter and filed the suit against the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Crump is most notably known for representing the family of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
In the suit, Burkhalter is alleging assault and battery, false arrest and imprisonment and defamation and emotional distress, according to Crump’s law firm.
She is requesting more than $18 million in damages, plus additional damages, for her husband and other family members who were vacationing at the theme park with her.
In the suit, Burkhalter says it was humiliating to be taken into custody outside of Disney in front of her children and grandchildren, all of whom were visiting from North Carolina. She and her team of lawyers have requested to move her case out of Florida since she doesn’t live there and Walt Disney World is not headquartered in the area.
Burkhalter went on to state that she panicked while being placed in the back of a police car and began vomiting. She claims that she was denied medical attention and subjected to a miserable 15-hour ordeal.
The grandmother added that she was further humiliated because the officers allegedly made her strip down at the jail to be searched.
Disney does not allow marijuana or marijuana-like substances on its properties. CBD oil is extracted from the flowers of marijuana plants, but it doesn’t produce a high. Burkhalter said she had a doctor’s note saying it was prescribed for her arthritis.
Great-grandmother with CBD oil arrested at Disney World
Disney World may be the most magical place on Earth, but it turned into a legal nightmare for a great-grandmother with arthritis.
A 69-year-old woman was arrested at a Disney World checkpoint when an Orange County Deputy found CBD oil in her purse. She then spent 12 hours behind bars before being released on a $2,000 bond.
Hester Jordan Burkhalter, a great-grandmother from North Carolina, began using CBD oil for her arthritis after her doctor recommended it, Fox 35 in Orlando reported. She even had a note from the medical professional in her purse at the time of arrest, but it didn’t matter.
Burkhalter told Fox 35 that she had been planning on the trip for two years. “I have really bad arthritis in my legs, in my arms and in my shoulder,” she said. “I use (CBD oil) for the pain because it helps.” When she was stopped by security outside of the Magic Kingdom, however, she was arrested. “I’ve never had one speeding ticket in my life.”
Despite the fact that it’s sold on store shelves across the state, CBD oil is still technically illegal in the state of Florida (unless the user has a prescription). This has created a confusing situation in the Sunshine State.
Jennifer Synnamon, a Florida attorney, told Fox 35, “a little drop of oil, with the CBD, is a felony. Meanwhile, you can have up to 19.9 grams of leaf-marijuana, and it’s a first-degree misdemeanor.”
While the Orange County Sheriff’s Office told Fox 35 that their deputy was just following the law, the charges against Burkhalter were eventually dropped.
In a statement provided to Fox News, Burkhalter’s lawyer Jennifer Synnamon said “I’m very disappointed that the Orange County Sheriff’s Office handled the situation the way they did. 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. The State of Florida finds nothing wrong with collecting the sales tax on illegal products, but they allow prosecution for possession of the same. I want to commend Aramis Ayala’s office for reviewing the case and swiftly determining that they would not prosecute.”
UPDATE: The Orange County Sheriff’s Office provided Fox News with the following statement: “This was a lawful arrest, as possession of CBD oil is currently a felony under Florida State Statute and Deputies are responsible for enforcing Florida law and Orange County ordinances. Although CBD oil is illegal without a prescription, our top drug enforcement priority and focus at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is to get deadly drugs, like heroin and fentanyl, off the streets of our community.”
Michael Hollan is an associate lifestyle editor for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent on Twitter: @M_Hollan