MIAMI – A Texas woman is now banned from stepping onboard any Carnival cruise ship for life all because she tried to bring CBD gummies on board to help her sleep.
Melinda Van Veldhuizen has been on so many cruises, she had priority boarding.
But in August, at PortMiami, she was pulled from the line when a Carnival security guard spotted a bag of CBD gummies in her backpack. She bought them legally online.
“I have trouble sleeping, so it was just to make sure I could sleep on the trip -- so if there were any issues, I could sleep,” Van Veldhuizen said. ”I’ve always traveled with them, no problem.”
Her plan was to celebrate her 21st wedding anniversary and her son’s senior year onboard Carnival’s Horizon. But she never made it onboard.
Van Veldhuizen, who doesn’t even have a parking ticket, was taken to an area away from her family and claims she was interrogated by security and police at PortMiami.
“I sat there for two-and-a-half hours, really not sure what was going to happen,” she said. “The way that they treated me was like a criminal.”
While some states ban it, CBD is available all over the place and is not illegal in Florida.
“I thought it was one of those situations where you’re like, ‘Oh shoot, I left a bottle of water in my backpack; you gotta throw it away,’ kind of thing like that happens at TSA,” Van Veldhuizen said.
In 2018, Congress legalized CBD as long as it has 0.3% or less THC. Melinda’s gummies had less than 0.01%. THC is the major psychoactive component found in marijuana.
But all major cruise lines ban CBD and Melinda was told she was not allowed to board.
“The captain asked me several times if I had a marijuana card or if I had a diagnosis, if I needed it,” Van-Veldhuizen said. “I said, ‘It’s CBD; that doesn’t exist. It’s just not a thing.’”
Her family decided they wouldn’t cruise without her. She later received a letter from Carnival noting that she was now banned for life.
In a statement to Local 10 News, a Carnival spokesperson said, “We are very sorry this guest and her family are unhappy with the outcome of their vacation plans, but we are following federal law under which CBD is defined as a controlled substance. We are not here to ascertain where our guests purchase CBD or what they intend to use it for once on board. Our responsibility is to follow federal guidelines and stop prohibited items from being brought on board our ships.”
The spokesperson says there are numerous messages about marijuana and related prohibited items pre-cruise and on the cruise line’s website. Carnival says it lists CBD as prohibited and claims it’s banned at several ports of call.
“We believe it was false imprisonment what they did to her. They had no right to hold her, especially when she did nothing wrong in the first place,” attorney Daren Stabinski said. “CBD is not marijuana. When you look at the specific rules and conditions that you agree to when you sail, it specifically says marijuana, marijuana derivatives and all illegally-controlled substances are prohibited, and what my client had was none of those things.”
Van Veldhuizen is now out $10,000.
“As it is written, CBD, correctly manufactured and obtained, is not derived from marijuana,” toxicologist Alberto Augsten said. “It is derived from the hemp component of the plant.”
But it’s Carnival’s ship, Carnival’s rules. And the public’s perception of CBD and those rules make this anything but smooth sailing.
“Out of all the cases I take, this one was just specifically outrageous,” Stabinski said.
Van Veldhuizen said the experience “was really traumatizing, the way they treated me and my family, kicking us out.”