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CBD Arrests Flying High at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport

At North Texas’ busiest airport, the fourth largest in the country, customs officers will detain international travelers, and seize their CBD, if a quick field test shows it to contain even a small trace of THC

By Scott Friedman and Jack Douglas Jr. • Published on April 25, 2019 at 4:09 pm

What to Know

  • Traveling with CBD oil or hemp-based derivatives could you get arrested at the airport.
  • While CBD does not contain enough THC to give anyone a high, it can be enough to test positive.
  • With CBD laws differing state-to-state, including in Texas, travelers face a confusing patchwork of enforcement.

As Texas legislators work towards possibly making CBD legal in the state, confiscation of the oil by federal officers has “skyrocketed” this year at DFW Airport, NBC 5 Investigates has learned.

In some cases, passengers have been jailed on felony drug possession charges for a single bottle of CBD.

“I would say a year ago it was almost non-existent,” said Cleatus Hunt Jr., port director at the airport for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“But in the last six months, the interception rate for that (CBD) has skyrocketed,” Hunt said in an interview.

Shops that sell CBD, which can contain small amounts of THC, have popped up throughout North Texas, and across the state.

And just this week, members of the Texas House voted in support of making the oil legal — a move that has already taken place in some other states — paving the way for consideration in the Senate.

But at North Texas’ busiest airport, the fourth largest in the country, customs officers will detain international travelers, and seize their CBD, if they feel it contains THC — the ingredient in marijuana that produces a high.

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It happened just recently, with NBC 5 Investigates there, capturing it on camera.

A drug-sniffing dog showed interest in a traveler’s backpack, prompting a search by a customs officer who found an e-cigarette cartridge. The traveler said he bought the e-cigarette at a CBD shop in Dallas.

An on-the-spot test for THC came back positive.

CBD oil, which has become a health craze in Texas and throughout the country, is made from hemp — the cannabis cousin to marijuana — and can contain trace amounts of THC.

CBD users say the oil has a multitude of health benefits, from soothing aches and pains to relieving anxiety, but that there is not enough, if any, THC to make them high.

That doesn’t matter, said Hunt, adding that any THC found at the airport can result in a DFW police bust.

“So one single incident, one single small amount of CBD oil that you thought was cool to take on a trip with you, could result in life-changing affects for you,” the customs port director said.

NBC 5 Investigates obtained police reports at the airport detailing some of the cases in which travelers were caught with CBD, including a 71-year-old woman who was jailed on a felony charge after telling authorities the vial in her bag was “CBD oil which she used as medicinal pain relief.”

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Another case involved a 22-year-old college student from Collin County who was caught after officers “conducting a random bag check . discovered a brown bottle labeled “hemp CBD.”

But the lead lawyer for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, which supports the legalization and growth of the CBD and hemp industries, said no one should be detained for possessing the oil.

Attorney Jonathan Miller, who also represents one of the travelers arrested at DFW Airport, said the federal farm bill signed into law last year makes it legal for people to transport CBD products made from hemp.

“Federal law is very clear. And when a Customs official pulls someone over for this, he or she is acting in the wrong,” Miller said.

He said of customs officers: “I am hopeful they can use their resources and their time on things that actually hurt people.”

A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection had a different opinion on the law, however, saying, “CBD oil is considered a controlled substance under U.S. Federal law.”

“Travelers found in possession of controlled substances at U.S. ports of entry can face arrest, seizures, fines, penalties or denied entry,” the spokesperson said.

In Texas, state law on CBD is murky, with the legislature currently debating a bill that would clear up the confusion and legalize CBD.

In the meantime, some state law enforcement agencies have said they will arrest and prosecute people found in possession of CBD.

CBD oil is a step closer to being legalized in Texas after legislators in the House voted on Tuesday to allow people to buy it without fear of being arrested. The bill cleared the House with no one opposing it, paving the way for a final vote before it moves to the Senate, where it may meet some resistance, including possibly from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

But with different laws in each state, travelers face a confusing patchwork of enforcement that could land them in jail, depending on where they are in the country.

At airports, the Transportation Security Administration tells NBC 5 Investigates it will also notify airport police if TSA screeners find CBD oil during routine checks of passenger bags.

For those reasons, federal authorities are urging international travelers to leave the CBD at home, not in the suitcase.

And for anyone still thinking about taking CBD to DFW Airport, Hunt suggested, “. don’t do it. It simply isn’t worth it.”

British football coach sentenced to 25 years’ jail in Dubai over CBD vape liquid

A British football coach has been sentenced to 25 years in jail in Dubai after police discovered four bottles of vape liquid containing CBD in the boot of his car.

Billy Hood, 24, from Kensington, was sentenced for trafficking, selling and possessing drugs after he claims he was forced by police to confess in Arabic, a language he does not speak.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was “giving consular support to a British man who has been imprisoned in the UAE”.

The vape oils found in Hood’s car on 31 January contained CBD, which is legal in the UK and many other countries, but illegal in the UAE as it contains trace elements of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. The oils had been bought in the UK, which resulted in a trafficking charge.

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In a statement to the campaign group Detained in Dubai, Hood said he had not been aware of the oils in the boot, but thought they had been left by a friend from England who had visited a couple of weeks earlier.

Hood said he had been approached by police outside his home, asking to search his home and car for drugs. “I was shocked, scared and confused. I told them I wasn’t aware or in possession of any drugs or substances,” he said.

After the discovery of the CBD oil, Hood said he was detained in an isolation cell for 14 days without hygiene products. After a week, he was informed that he would face a second prosecution.

Hood, who played semi-professional football for Kensington and Ealing Borough FC, said he has a “zero tolerance” stance on drugs and illegal substances.

Hood’s family are working with Detained in Dubai and local lawyers to appeal against his convictions, which they are funding through a GoFundMe page that has raised over £11,000 so far.

His mother, Breda, a 55-year-old teaching assistant, said she had experienced “the worst stress I have ever been through” over the past nine months.

She said: “He’s always been such a good boy and has never been troublesome. He helps out children, coaches and volunteers. He’s never been into drugs, ever … My son does not deserve to lose his whole life over CBD oil that wasn’t even his.”

She said she was “disappointed” by the lack of assistance from the FCO, and urged the government department to include more information on the criminal justice system in Dubai in its travel warnings. She also urged the UAE government to intervene in the case.

Radha Stirling, the chief executive of Detained in Dubai, said visitors to the country must be especially careful not to fall foul of its zero tolerance policy on drugs. Recent convictions include for possession of poppy seeds, which contain opium alkaloids; medical prescriptions; and traces of drugs consumed months before arrival in the country showing up in urine tests.

“You can protect yourself by strictly being careful about what you take, but only to a certain extent because there are still wrongful arrests and the desire of the police to gain a conviction even if wrongful,” Stirling said, adding that “forced and coerced confessions are commonplace”.

Traveling Grandmother Jailed for CBD Oil: ‘I Slept on the Floor… Next to the Toilet’

A trip to Oregon with a stop at DFW Airport ended with a woman spending two nights in jail

By Scott Friedman and Jack Douglas Jr. • Published on May 21, 2019 at 4:57 pm

What to Know

  • Traveling with CBD oil or hemp-based derivatives could you get arrested at the airport.
  • While CBD does not contain enough THC to give anyone a high, it can be enough to test positive.
  • With CBD laws differing state-to-state, including in Texas, travelers face a confusing patchwork of enforcement.
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Lena Bartula, at age 71, is an accomplished artist and proud grandmother who had an unsettling experience as she passed through North Texas on her way to visit her granddaughter in Oregon.

In fact, a nightmare, she said, would be a better description for when police officers slapped handcuffs on her at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after they found cannabidiol (CBD) oil in her travel bag.

The Fort Worth native, who now lives in an artist community in Mexico, was told she was under arrest.

“I think I almost laughed out loud, because I thought that couldn’t really be,” Bartula said in a Skype interview with NBC 5 Investigates.

She realized it was no laughing matter when, handcuffed, she was driven to the DFW Airport Jail where, “I slept on the floor, my head next to the toilet.”

It was a far cry from the peaceful, picturesque community in Mexico where Bartula runs a popular gallery.

And it only got worse the next day — she said her arms and legs were shackled, and she was moved to the Tarrant County Jail in Fort Worth to spend another night behind bars, then facing a felony drug charge.

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“I had no idea what would happen to me,” Bartula recalled.

A year ago, arrests for CBD at the airport were “almost non-existent,” said Cleatus Hunt Jr., area port director for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at DFW.

“But in the last six months, the interception rate for that has skyrocketed,” Hunt said.

Attorneys for the CBD industry said federal authorities have no right to detain someone with the product. They argue that hemp-made CBD was legalized in December with the passage of the federal farm bill.

But customs officials said they were still in the process of implementing the new federal rules so, for now, products with THC are still prohibited at ports of entry, such as the one at DFW Airport.

As a rule, if federal authorities detect THC, they notify the airport police who likely will make an arrest, because state law prohibits CBD oil with any amount of THC in it.

CBD oil has become a health craze, both in Texas and across the country, with users saying it does such things as ease their anxiety and soothe their aches and pains.

For Bartula, she said it was those aches and pains — so common as the years add up — that caused her to use CBD for relief.

Her case was dropped, when a Tarrant County grand jury declined to move the case forward.

Still, those nights in jail have convinced her to never again pack CBD in a suitcase when she travels — a bit of advice she’s quick to give to her friends.

“I have warned everyone I know, because most people my age, with my kinds of aches and pains, do take this,” said Bartula. “They rely on it.”