A grandmother who was arrested for having CBD oil in her purse has filed a civil lawsuit against several entities including, The Walt Disney Co. and the Orange County Sheriff. A North Carolina woman arrested with possession of CBD oil at Disney World, which is legal in Florida, is suing the park and the sheriff’s department. A Russian news agency is reporting that Brittney Griner has been arrested in Russia for possession of cannabis oil.
Grandma Files Lawsuit After She Was Arrested For Having CBD Oil In Purse At Disney
MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) – A grandmother who was arrested for having CBD oil in her purse has filed a civil lawsuit against several entities including, The Walt Disney Co. and the Orange County Sheriff.
Attorney Ben Crump said Hester Burkhalter, a 69-year-old woman, “was wrongfully arrested and taken into custody at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for possessing federally legal CBD oil” in 2019.
CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory derived from the cannabis plant.
According to Crump and a July 29 complaint, a lawsuit has been filed in the Circuit Court of the 9th Judicial Circuit in Orange County against The Walt Disney Company and a number of its executives as well as the Orange County Sheriff and a number of its deputies alleging illegal detention, false arrest and violation of civil rights. The suit requests $6 million in compensatory damages and $12 million in punitive damages for Burkhalter, as well as millions of additional dollars for her family, according to the complaint.
“The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has not been served with a lawsuit, but in any case, we don’t comment on possible pending litigation,” it said in an email to CNN on Wednesday.
CNN has reached out to The Walt Disney Co. and has not heard back.
“Defendants Disney and uniformed local law enforcement officials acting at its direction and under its authority as a Florida landowner . arrested and detained, processed as a narcotics felon and strip-searched a harmless, entirely blameless American great-grandmother, whose only ‘crime’ was her desire to lessen crippling osteoarthritic pain with a doctor-recommended hemp-based oil, while giving her family, including a disabled adult daughter and two adopted pre-teen children, an enjoyable vacation at the ‘Disney World’s entertainment complex near Orlando,” a complaint filed July 29 reads. “The disgraceful events that animate this lawsuit ‘pull back the curtain’ on the casual cruelty and unpardonable ineptitude that lie at Disney’s cold corporate heart.”
According to accounts from Crump and Burkhalter during the news conference and the complaint, Burkhalter traveled with her husband, daughter, and two adopted children, ages 8 and 10, from Hickory to visit Walt Disney World last year, a trip Crump said Burkhalter had spent over two years saving up for. After spending April 14 at various Disney parks, the family arrived at the Magic Kingdom on April 15 where the complaint says Burkhalter was asked to remove the contents of her bag while going through security. According to Crump, Burkhalter opened her bag and placed her belongings, which included a one ounce container of CBD oil, into a security bin.
During the press conference, Burkhalter told security agents she used CBD oil to treat advanced arthritis per her doctor’s recommendation. When asked if her substance contained THC, Burkhalter said she did not know, although the bottle read 0% THC, according to the complaint.
A sheriff’s deputy then tested the substance twice, getting a negative result the first time and positive result the second time, according to the complaint.
According to Crump and the complaint, Burkhalter was then separated from her family and placed under arrest for felony drug possession. She was subjected to drug sniffing dogs, vomited during transport, and requested and was denied medical care, the complaint alleges. When Burkhalter arrived at the detention facility, she had her mug shot taken and was then escorted to an adjacent room “where she was instructed by other officers to strip naked and to ‘bend over’ for a body cavity search,” according to the complaint.
“It was the most humiliating day of my life,” Burkhalter said during Wednesday’s news conference.
Crump, who is representing the family of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis, in a separate lawsuit, brought up Floyd’s verbalized anxiety as police officers tried to force him into the back of the car shortly before his death. Burkhalter said she too told police officers that she could not breathe.
“I even told them that I could not breathe before I finally got out,” Burkhalter said. “I felt like I was going to pass out and I started throwing up and the only comment was that one officer who said, ‘She’s throwing up,’ like it was no big deal. I don’t understand it.”
Crump said they have asked Disney for an apology which, according to Crump, it has not given. Crump said the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has been mostly silent except in trying to “defend their indefensible actions.”
Burkhalter’s son posted bail on April 15, 2019, and she was released shortly after midnight, ending a nearly 15-hour “ordeal,” according to the complaint. The Burkhalters were then told if they tried to go back on Disney property, they would be arrested for trespassing, a restriction lifted in a May 9, 2019 letter to her attorneys from Disney security, according to information disclosed during the news conference.
(©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)
‘Unmerited humiliation:’ Woman sues over CBD oil arrest at Disney World
Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump announces the wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis and its police department.
A North Carolina woman who was arrested at Disney World in 2019 is suing Disney and a Florida sheriff’s department in a case represented by civil rights attorney Ben Crump.
According to a complaint filed in Orange County, Florida, last month, Hester Burkhalter, of Hickory, North Carolina, was placed under arrest by a sheriff’s deputy at Disney World in April 2019. Burkhalter, who was 69 at the time, was in possession of therapeutic CBD oil, recommended by her doctor for severe osteoarthritis in her legs.
CBD oil is derived from industrial hemp, and contains little or no THC, the active drug found in marijuana. CBD oil is legal in Florida and widely sold throughout the state, according to the complaint. Even after a field test revealed that Burkhalter’s CBD oil contained no THC, the complaint states, the sheriff’s deputy still charged her with felony narcotics possession.
Burkhalter was detained in the presence of her husband, their disabled adult daughter and two adopted children. She was then handcuffed in view of other tourists and taken to the sheriff’s office, where she was forced to strip and undergo a body cavity search. Burkhalter was released on $2,000 bail after 15 hours. The charges were dropped.
Burkhalter’s lawsuit seeks $6 million in compensatory damages and $12 million in punitive damages. Her husband and three children are seeking $1 million each in compensatory damages and $3 million each in punitive damages.
In addition to Burkhalter’s arrest, the complaint says Disney employees ejected her family from the park.
“Rather than a family vacation to look back upon fondly,” the complaint says, “Disney and its security operatives in the sheriff’s office treated plaintiffs to a fifteen-hour long emotional ordeal that included Burkhalter’s improper arrest and detention on baseless felony narcotics charges, while her ailing husband, disabled adult daughter and two pre-teen children watched and waited in horror,unable to understand the circumstances or to help her, uncertain of her fate and, therefore, uncertain of their own fates as well.”
“Adding insult to injury,” the complaint continues, “Disney took the gratuitous step of summarily ejecting Hester and her family from its facilities in perpetuity as ‘trespassers,’ thereby cementing the defamatory stigma and unmerited humiliation precipitated by defendants’ disgraceful conduct.”
USA TODAY reached out to Disney World for comment. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which is named as a defendant in the complaint, said it does not comment on pending litigation.
Crump is a nationally-known attorney who has represented the families of African Americans who were killed by law enforcement. His most recent clients include the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the Minneapolis man and Louisville woman who died at the hands of local police.
The killings of Floyd and Taylor have inspired months of protest by Black Lives Matter and other groups that want to see changes in law enforcement and accountability for officers who routinely use excessive force.
Though Burkhalter’s the complaint notes that most of those arrested in Florida on felony narcotics charges are Black or people of color, Burkhalter is white.
Mercury ‘closely monitoring’ after report Russians arrested Brittney Griner on cannabis oil possession charge
In the offseason, Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner has played for Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2015. Many of the top players in the WNBA compete overseas because the money is so lucrative. (Photo by /BSR Agency/Getty Images)
PHOENIX – A WNBA player the Russian Federal Customs Service said it arrested on suspicion of smuggling liquid cannabis is Brittney Griner, the Phoenix Mercury confirmed Saturday.
The star center was detained at an airport in February after Russian authorities found what they claimed were vape cartridges containing hashish in her luggage.
“We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia,” the Phoenix Mercury said in a statement. “We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA. We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
According to Intefax, a Russian independent news agency, the Russian Federal Customs Service reported that “a U.S. citizen was passing through the green channel at Sheremetyevo Airport upon arriving from New York (when) a working dog from the Sheremetyevo Customs canine department detected the possible presence of narcotic substances in the accompanying luggage.”
As officials screened it, the inspection “confirmed the presence of vapes with specifically-smelling liquid, and an expert determined that the liquid was cannabis oil (hash oil), which is a narcotic substance,” the Customs Service reported.
Griner has won four titles with UMMC Ekaterinburg, a Russian Euroleague basketball team. The team is stacked with WNBA talent including Mercury teammate Diana Taurasi, Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot and 2021 Most Valuable Player Jonquel Jones.
Griner can face five to 10 years in prison for smuggling narcotic substances on a substantial scale, according to Russia Interfax.
Given the tensions between Ukraine and Russia, the WNBA said in a recent statement that they are taking measures to keep players safe.
“The league has also been in contact with WNBA players who are in Russia, either directly or through their agents,” the statement read. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
On Saturday, the league issued another statement, saying, “Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States.”
Many of the WNBA’s top players compete overseas in the offseason because salaries are so lucrative. ESPN reported in 2016 that Griner was making close to $1 million that season while Taurasi brought in around $1.5 million.
The team also charters flights to away games. Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated reported that the WNBA issued a league-record $500,000 fine to the New York Liberty for traveling by charter flights during the second half of last season.