Disney World Arrested a Grandmother for Having CBD, So Now She’s Suing Them

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The lawsuit stems from a 2019 incident in which Hester Burkhalter, 70, was jailed for 12 hours.

 

This Saturday is National CBD Day.

For many brands — as well as a continually growing portion of the U.S. populace — the occasion will be cause to celebrate the non-psychoactive cannabinoid now featured in everything from bubble bath to champagne. The remarkable velocity with which CBD has assimilated itself into the mainstream continues to impress, though a vast gulf still divides corporate enthusiasm from societal understanding.

In some ways, corporate interest has outpaced public education, leading to a flooded marketplace and confused consumers. Not everyone is lost, however. There are also many very satisfied CBD consumers, including Hester Burkhalter.

Burkhalter, a 70-year-old grandmother, relies on CBD oil to treat her arthritis. Prescribed the medication by her physician in Tennessee, she brought some with her during a visit to Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida last year. Though Burkhalter was clearly hip to the benefits of CBD, her enlightenment was not shared by local authorities, who placed her under arrest upon finding the oil in her purse.

The story grabbed numerous headlines, with many decrying the fact that Burkhalter — who, again, is 70 — was jailed for twelve hours before eventually being released. When one includes the video evidence of her arrest, it looked pretty bad for Mickey and pals. Not surprisingly, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (yup, Florida has one too) dropped the charges almost instantly.

Now it appears Burkhalter is out for her full pound of mouse flesh in the form of a lawsuit naming both the Walt Disney Company and the sheriff’s department as defendants.

As detailed by Marijuana Moment, the legal filings “allege illegal detention, false arrest and a violation of Burkhalter’s civil rights.” In addition, the outlet details the impressive legal power backing Burkhalter’s suit.

“She’s got a legal powerhouse behind her, too. Attorney Ben Crump will lead the case. He’s the same lawyer who’s worked on multiple high-profile cases, including the killings of unarmed black Americans such as Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. And he’s currently representing the families of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, whose deaths at the hands of police ignited mass protests across the country this year.”

In a call with members of the media on August 5, Crump didn’t mince words.

“It is disgraceful that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department would treat this cherished grandmother like a common criminal in front of her family and her children who were with them,” Crump argued. “It’s one thing for Disney to say because she had CBD, she was not allowed to come onto their property. It is another thing entirely to have law enforcement arrest her and put her in jail for 12 hours after she told them the oil was recommended by her doctor for medical reasons.”

Filed in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, the lawsuit is not about setting a precedent regarding possession of CBD at theme parks. That’s because, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD is federally legal. Was Burkhalter’s CBD hemp-derived? Unclear, but given her lawsuit’s complaint centers on the circumstances of her detention, this point is all but moot.

However, as CBD continues to grow in prevalence and popularity — hello, National CBD Day — it seems patently absurd that major theme parks like Disney’s Magic Kingdom are arresting anyone, let alone grandmothers, for bringing some CBD along for a long day. Furthermore, how are we expecting park security to differentiate between hemp-derived and full-spectrum CBD bought at a dispensary? Seems like it would be a lot easier to just not police it at all!

Though famously litigious, one can channel their inner Jiminy Cricket and wish for Disney to have themselves a magic moment and finally realize there’s nothing to be gained from treating CBD like Scar from The Lion King. More likely, they will be sluggish and forced into action as a last result. The day is coming, no matter how many grandmothers get arrested, so here’s an idea: why not give in now and add some extra magic to the kingdom instead?

If you’re going to make millions from Goofy (a classic stoner profile), how can you not even entertain the idea of THC-infused Dole Whips? Case closed.

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