A great-grandmother was arrested by an Orange County Deputy at a Walt Disney World checkpoint after officers found a bottle of CBD oil in her purse. Hester Jordan Burkhalter was taken into custody over “illegal narcotics believed to be THC oil,” according to an arrest affidavit obtained by USA Today. When she was questioned about whether her bottle of “Select CBD” contained THC, the main active ingredient of cannabis, she “refused to answer.”
CBD is derived from the same plant as marijuana, but it does not contain any psychoactive properties like THC. That didn’t stop the security detail from arresting the 69-year-old, who reportedly “never had one speeding ticket in [her] life,” and carting her off to Disney jail where she was charged with possession of hashish, a felony charge, and later released on $2,000 bail.
Burkhalter told Orlando’s Fox 35 that she was prescribed the CBD oil by her North Carolina doctor to help treat her arthritis. Her doctor’s note wasn’t sufficient, though, because in Florida, possession of CBD oil is currently a felony, according to Fox News, without an in-state doctor’s note, even though CBD products are sold at supermarkets in the state. It’s particularly stunning, because possession of non-medical marijuana is a misdemeanor, and medical marijuana is legal in the Sunshine State for license holders.
Prosecutors eventually dropped charges against Burkhalter, because she’s a nice, white, great-grandmother and not, say, a black man who may not have gotten off so easily, but the arrest raises an interesting legal debate. According to Fox 35, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said its deputy was following the law.
Despite the fact that the CBD is a rapidly growing industry slated to top $22 billion by 2020, and as Fast Company reported, many traditional retailers today look to attract consumers with new experiences that capitalize on the $4.2 trillion wellness industry, CBD’s legality is still the subject of debate. CBD that is extracted from hemp has only been legal nationwide since the Agriculture Improvement Act was passed in December 2018, and 17 states have passed laws specifically allowing CBD for certain uses.
How that works in practice, though, is still TBD, as it seems to fall into a legal gray area. For instance, while packaged CBD drinks are on the shelves in New York City grocery stores, there was also a crackdown on restaurants and coffee shops serving CBD-laced edible products, making things even murkier. Similarly, in Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times, you can do “CBD bong hits and do yoga” and buy CBD products in various forms throughout the state, but it is technically not legal.
While it’s rare to see someone arrested for possession, this incident at “The Happiest Place On Earth” just shows how gray the area still is in absence of national leadership, which could be a cautionary tale for an industry eager for the laws to catch up.