A family trip to Disney World came to a halt when a great-grandmother was arrested for carrying CBD oil, which her doctor recommended to ease her arthritis.
Hester Burkhalter, 69, was arrested on Apr. 15 and charged with felony possession of hashish. The Tampa Bay Times reports that Burkhalter was stopped at a bag check just outside of Magic Kingdom that morning, and Disney security found her 1-ounce bottle of peppermint-flavored CBD tincture. In photos obtained by Orlando’s Fox 35, the bottle is labeled as 1000 mg of CBD and 0 mg of THC.
“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.”
According to the arrest report, the security guard who spotted the CBD oil notified a nearby police officer, who tested the tincture. He said the tincture tested positive for THC and arrested Burkhalter. Although she was carrying the letter of recommendation for CBD oil from her doctor, CBD is illegal in the state of Florida. She spent 12 hours in jail and was released on a $2,000 bail. The charges were later dropped.
There are a handful of gray areas at play here.
One, the December 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp nationwide, classifying it as an agricultural commodity instead of a federally controlled substance. Hemp products, like the CBD oil added to burgers and sold by the bottle in the wellness section of grocery stores like Whole Foods, must contain less than 0.3 percent THC to be legally sold. (THC is the main psychoactive compound in weed that makes you feel high. CBD doesn’t.)
But like the Miami Herald notes, hemp is still a no-no in Florida. Retailers sell CBD products, but a spokesman for the state’s Agriculture Commissioner stated that while the office hasn’t sent out any cease and desist letters, “the sale of CBD products is not currently legal in Florida until hemp legislation is passed.”
The police report, as seen in Fox 35’s video, shows the police officer used a presumptive test on Burkhalter’s CBD tincture. Presumptive tests can’t specify a substance, but indicate the possibility of its presence. In this case, the test turned red, which indicated that THC might have been present. While presumptive tests are cheaper and yield faster results, they can be inaccurate and give false positives. The FDA recommends using confirmatory testing, which is more costly and takes longer but can “obtain a confirmed analytical result” by identifying specific substances.
This also isn’t the first time that a marijuana test detected THC in supposedly “pure” CBD oil. THC-free CBD, or CBD isolate, can be made in a lab, but there’s little to no regulation when it comes to what CBD manufacturers put in their products or how they label them. An investigation by WTHR in Indiana, a state where it’s legal to buy, sell, and possess CBD products, found that a patient taking hemp-derived CBD oil tested positive for marijuana during his employer’s drug test. The station sent a sample of the oil he took in lieu of multiple migraine medications to a lab, which certified that the oil had 0.018 percent THC — well below the legal limit. And in Georgia, where medical marijuana patients can register to legally use “low THC oil” to treat a variety of ailments, a woman taking CBD oil for anxiety failed a drug screening for a new job. She told WSB-TV that the ingredient label on the oil showed no THC, but a disclaimer on the company’s website stated that full-spectrum oil could test positive on drug screenings. It’s unclear how a full-spectrum product would have no THC as that is made from the whole hemp plant, meaning that there will be some traces of THC.
In a statement to Fox News, the Sheriff’s Office said their handling of Burkhalter was “a lawful arrest.”
“Possession of CBD oil is currently a felony under Florida State Statute and Deputies are responsible for enforcing Florida law,” the statement continued. “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.”
For Burkhalter, though, the family trip to Disney World was ruined.
“We had planned on this trip for over two years and we saved up for it and we were real excited,” she told Fox 35. “I didn’t know what to think, I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t feel like I’d done nothing wrong.”