Not many people plan to spend a part of their vacation locked up, much less for possessing something they thought was merely their medication. Great-grandmother Hester Jordan Burkhalter of North Carolina was at Disney World recently when an Orange County, Fla. police officer arrested her at a checkpoint after discovering peppermint-flavored CBD oil in her purse. The 69-year-old woman’s doctor had recommended it to treat her arthritis pain, as Fox News first reported. Acting responsibly, she even had a note from her doctor in her purse, which she showed the arresting officer. None of that mattered, however, and the 69-year-old woman spent 12 hours behind bars before being released on $2,000 bail. The charges were eventually dropped.
“I have really bad arthritis in my legs, in my arms, and in my shoulder,” Burkhalter told Fox. “I use [CBD oil] for the pain because it helps. I’ve never had one speeding ticket in my life.”
Much like cannabis containing THC, the legal status of CBD is something of a gray area in the United States. Although cannabis is still illegal on the Federal level, it is legal with a prescription in Florida. Hemp-derived CBD was also supposedly legalized nationwide with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, and is widely available in stores, but it appears to remain technically illegal in Florida according to a rarely, if ever, enforced state statute.
To add to the confusion, Florida laws criminalizing CBD are more severe than those for leaf marijuana. As Jennifer Synnamon, Burkhalter’s 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.”
Synnamon said in a statement, "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."
The Orange County Sherrif’s Office also issued a statement to Fox News. "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,” said the statement. “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."