cbd arrests

On April 15th, Orlando deputies arrested 69-year-old Hester Jordan Burkhalter at Disney World. Guards at a security checkpoint had found a vial of CBD oil prescribed by her doctor for arthritis. The county narcotics unit arrived and said Burkhalter’s CBD oil tested positive for THC, unaware their test couldn’t differentiate between CBD and THC. They charged her with a felony, possession of hashish. 

The charges were dropped hours later as news circulated. Burkhalter then hired attorneys Michele Rayner and Benjamin Crump, who represented Trayvon Martin’s family. Crump demanded the Orange County Sheriff’s Office release the full video of her arrest:

“So far, we have only seen edited police bodycam footage from the day Hester Burkhalter was arrested at Disney World, and we have requested the full, unedited bodycam video to review. However, based on the limited portion of the transcript we’ve seen, we are shocked to learn that the officers tested Burkhalter’s CBD oil twice, apparently to get to the end result they wanted. And, further, that the deputy acknowledged that the test kit was faulty and the results could not be relied upon. This officer seemed to be hell-bent on putting Ms. Burkhalter in jail. Even when faced with evidence there was no THC in the product, they re-tested and then detained her for more than 12 hours.”

The video he’s referring to shows the CBD oil in question screening as negative for THC. Then a deputy in the video says he wants to test it again, and another responds, “I’m going to go ahead and turn [my bodycam] off now.”


The great-grandmother’s lawyers expect to sue both the Disney Corporation and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for “illegal detention, false arrest, and a violation of civil rights,” local station WESH 2 reports.

CBD oil is non-intoxicating and sold on store shelves in Florida. It typically has very low to nonexistent levels of THC, the famed-cannabinoid in marijuana; however, studies have proven that the most effective CBD products contain small amounts of THC because the two cannabinoids work synergistically.  It’s also federally LEGAL without a prescription, but this isn’t the only recent case of police harassing older women over the popular supplement. Last year, officers arrested 71-year-old Lena Bartula at the Dallas airport for possession of a vial of CBD oil she used to treat her sciatic nerve pain. The grandmother spent 22 hours in jail during the ordeal.

TSA Says CBD Oil is Allowed on Flights

In response to troublesome decisions like these by law enforcement, TSA chose to update its policy concerning CBD this past Memorial Day weekend. They specified that hemp-derived CBD could now be carried on and stored in checked bags. They also changed the status of medical marijuana to a “Yes” in their “What Can I Bring Section.”

TSA said CBD and furthermore cannabis are not safety or security concerns, though they may report incidentally discovered marijuana to local law enforcement. States like California have gone a step further to clarify that police will allow certain amounts of cannabis at airports. 

USDA Clarifies Pro-Hemp Policy

The US Department of Agriculture followed suit on Tuesday, May 28th releasing a memo specifying that hemp can be transported across state lines regardless of the legality in the states. The department explained that the rescheduling of the plant and its derivatives under the 2018 Farm Bill are self-executing and did not require further action by federal agencies once signed into law. 

The USDA specified four points:

  1. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill, removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
  1. States and Indian tribes may not prohibit the interstate transportation of lawfully marketed hemp products—including those that fall under the more limited research-focused provisions of the previous 2014 Farm Bill.
  1. Restrictions on participation in the hemp industry apply for individuals with felony drug convictions.


  1. By amending Schedule I to exclude THC in hemp, Congress has removed THC in hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

The FDA Will Determine How CBD Products Can Be Marketed

The only remaining technicality on the table for CBD is just what manufacturers can claim to treat, which is not a criminal issue, merely a marketing one for businesses. The FDA will make this decision and have announced a “high-level internal agency working group” to determine how  companies can market CBD. The idea that an officer would take a customer into custody over a manufacturing gray area is baseless. 

For police to even try to justify arresting elderly women for having medicine is unacceptable and indicative of a bigger problem in our society. In the early days of America, life expectancy was 25 years, but thanks to modern medicine, people like Ms. Burkhalter and Ms. Bartula can continue to live active lives at three times that age. 

Today, law enforcement has assumed an antagonistic stance to the citizens they are supposed to protect and serve to the point of parody, arresting grandmothers for hemp oil. Our criminal justice system and law enforcement need to be concerned with our safety and health, but today we rarely try to rehabilitate our criminals, and thousands of marijuana convictions have led to the destruction of nonviolent offenders’ lives. 

There’s a serious issue when law enforcement starts to become a danger to public health. The nation is in the midst of a paradigm shift. Legislators are working to create equity for those with past cannabis convictions because we are admitting the policies were wrong. It’s unacceptably antiquated for police to continue to add to the long-term, adverse impacts of cannabis criminalization and its enforcement.

Works Cited

“Body Cam Footage Shows Arrest of Grandmom at Disney Over CBD Oil.” Video Shows Arrest of Grandmom at Disney Over CBD Oil, www.spectrumnews1.com/oh/cincinnati/news/2019/05/22/body-cam-footage-shows-arrest-of-grandmom-at-disney-over-cbd-oil.

Jaeger, Kyle. “States Can’t Block Legal Hemp Shipments Within Their Borders, USDA Says.” Marijuana Moment, 28 May 2019, www.marijuanamoment.net/states-cant-block-legal-hemp-shipments-within-their-borders-usda-says/.

“Medical Marijuana.” Transportation Security Administration, 25 May 2019, www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/medical-marijuana.


Miller, Carlos. “Guns and Pot Sometimes Don’t Mix in Florida.” Miami New Times, 4, 7 May 2019, www.miaminewtimes.com/marijuana/medical-marijuana-and-gun-laws-sometimes-conflict-in-florida-11149726.

Miller, Carlos. “Stop Arresting Grandmothers for CBD.” Miami New Times, 4, 28 May 2019, www.miaminewtimes.com/marijuana/stop-cbd-cannabidol-marijuana-arrests-of-grandmothers-hester-burkhalter-and-lena-bartula-11181105.

Schrader, Adam, and Adam Schrader. “Great-Grandmother Arrested at Disney with CBD Oil Hires Lawyer Ben Crump.” New York Post, New York Post, 14 May 2019, nypost.com/2019/05/14/great-grandmother-arrested-at-disney-with-cbd-oil-hires-lawyer-ben-crump/.

“TSA Changes Policy to Allow Some CBD Oil and Medications on Planes.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/tsa-changes-policy-allow-some-cbd-oil-medications-planes-n1010561.

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