Hester Jordan Burkhalter is a 69-year-old North Carolina resident who was arrested at Disney World in Orange County, Florida because she was found with CBD oil in her purse.
CBD, which is sold on shelves across Florida, earned Burkhalter a felony charge, a mugshot and 12 hours in jail.
According to the police report, a Disney security guard contacted an Orange County Deputy on the suspicion that Burkhalter’s oil contained THC in it. The report states Burkhalter refused to answer the question of if her CBD contained THC – the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that produces a high.
After the Orange County Deputy arrived on the scene, the bottle of CBD was then tested for any suspected THC oil. Although the bottle stated there was zero THC within the oil, the test kit turned red, indicating a positive result for the presence of the ingredient. Burkhalter was then arrested.
After Burkhalter’s arrest, the great-grandmother’s story was picked up by Orlando’s Fox affiliate, Fox 35. The local station’s report helped out Burkhalter, as the station claims prosecutors dropped all of their charges after reporters started asking questions.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Burkhalter Was Recommended By a Doctor To Use CBD
Hester Jordan Burkhalter started using CBD for her arthritis after her doctor in North Carolina recommended that she start taking it. Fox 35 reports that Burkhalter even had a note in her purse from her doctor, but that didn’t matter.
“I have really bad arthritis in my legs, in my arms and in my shoulder,” Burkhalter told Fox 35. “I use it for the pain because it helps.”
The 69-year-old said she was originally stopped by security outside the popular Disney park, Magic Kingdom. Although Burkhalter had a doctor’s note and the bottle said it had zero THC in it she was still arrested.
2. According To Law Enforcement, Burkhalter Was Arrested Because CBD Is Still Illegal in Florida
Even though gas stations, smoke shops and drug stores around the sunshine state have their shelves stocked with CBD products, law enforcement can still arrest and press felony charges against someone who possess the medicinal product.
Burkhalter’s lawyer, Jennifer Synnamon, 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.”
Although Orange County law enforcement claims this is a lawful arrest because “posession of CBD oil is currently a felony under Florida State Statute and Deputies are responsible for enforcing Florida law and Orange County ordinances,” the Orange County police department released the following statement to Heavy:
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.”
3. The Charges Against Burkhalter Were Dropped by Prosecutors
Despite the fact Orange County Police Department Captain Carlos Torres said the deputy was following Florida law, prosecutors eventually dropped all charges against Burkhalter.
“On this particular case, the deputy encountered a substance that he knew was to be illegal. He tested it and at that point, he developed probable cause to make the arrest,” Torres told Fox 35. “It is a risk because you don’t know what you’re buying and once again just because you are buying it at a store does not make it okay, or doesn’t make it legal, or doesn’t even make it safe for you to purchase.”
Burkhalter’s lawyer, Jennifer Synnamon described the arrest as something, “absolutely beyond my comprehension.”
In a statement to Fox News Synnamon said the following:
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,” Synnamon added.
4. This Is The Only Time Burkhalter Has Been Arrested
The 69-year-old great grandmother had a fairly clean record prior to the mix up at Disney World. She told Fox 35 that she has never been in a jailhouse and was very confused by the whole situation.
“I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t feel like I’ve done nothing wrong. I didn’t know, I’ve never had but maybe one speeding ticket in my life. I’ve never been in a jailhouse,” Burkhalter told Fox 35.
After Burkhalter’s vacation down to Florida, a trip she and her family have been planning for what she says two years, her arrest and her 12-hour stay in jail, she decided to hire Jennifer Synnamon.
Synnamon told Fox 35 that she finds the inconsistency with the law, pointing out the drastic difference between how law enforcement handles leaf-marijuana versus CBD oil.
According to Florida law, any possession of CBD is against the law unless you have a prescription.
5. Burkhalter’s Arrest Falls Into What Experts Call The ‘Ultimate Gray Area of The Law’
With stores across Florida selling CBD vape-cartridges, gummies, oils and many other CBD consumables the law against possession of the hemp-derived medicine can be confusing.
“The state hasn’t done anything about the companies that are selling it, so of course people think it’s legal,” Synnamon told Fox 35.
Both marijuana and hemp are derived from the cannabis plant. Where marijuana is rich in the psychoactive element of cannabis, THC, hemp is richer in CBD, often containing 0.3 percent of THC or less.
The controversy surrounding the possession of CBD was intensified when the 2018 Farm Bill lifted the federal ban on hemp, which was previously classified as a schedule one drug by the DEA on par with heroin or meth.
Since the inconsistency between the sale, cultivation and possession of hemp products differs from state to state, despite the federal declaration of hemp legalization, it is becoming more and more likely that these seemingly legal acts of possession will be taken up by the courts.