FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Texas woman was about to board a Carnival cruise ship at PortMiami in August to celebrate her son’s graduation and her own anniversary when she found herself detained because of CBD gummies.
Erin Van Veldhuizen and her family were longtime customers of Carnival, with platinum status and priority boarding, she said. This would have been their ninth cruise with the company, her 14th in total. Her husband and her two sons had flown with her from Texas to Florida just for the trip.
The family had never had any issues before, Van Veldhuizen said, “by the book people” who don’t even drink.
As Van Veldhuizen went through security, a guard spotted nail clippers in her bag and pulled her aside. When he searched her bag, he found the gummies, which contain no psychoactive properties and “basically zero” levels of THC, said her Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer, Daren Stabinski.
Several security guards took her into a small room, away from her family, where she was detained for hours, at first with no idea what was going on. Then they told her that she had brought a controlled substance on board. Miami-Dade deputies were called. At one point they weighed the gummies, Van Veldhuizen said.
The whole ordeal left her hurt, frustrated and embarrassed.
“I felt like I was being called a druggie, and I don’t even do Tylenol,” Van Veldhuizen said.
A captain said that her family could continue on board, but she could not. Upset and frustrated, her family stayed with her.
Van Veldhuizen received a letter the next day, which she thought would contain information about getting reimbursed. Instead, Carnival informed her that she was banned for life.
“This decision was based on your actions on the current cruise, which were a violation of the ship rules, interfered with the safety and/or enjoyment of other guests on the ship or caused harm to Carnival,” the letter reads, adding that Carnival would not reimburse any travel expenses Van Veldhuizen had already incurred, including hotels she and her family had booked.
In a September response to Stabinski’s notice of intent to file a federal lawsuit against Carnival, their lawyers replied that “Carnival must comply with federal law and the laws of the ports of call the ships visit” and the ticket contract, the legal document that outlines what cruisers can do, “clearly states that marijuana derivatives such as CBD are strictly prohibited.”
The contract states that “marijuana, marijuana derivatives, and all illegal substances are strictly prohibited” but doesn’t mention CBD specifically.
“What she had is none of those things,” Stabinski said. Her product was derived from hemp, he said, which contains a fraction of a percent of THC and is legal under federal law.
In a gesture of “good will,” Carnival offered to refund the $1,665 that Van Veldhuizen paid for her ticket.
She said she hopes that Carnival becomes more educated on the difference between CBD and marijuana. The family won’t stop going on cruises, but they’re taking a break after what happened.