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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

CBD Arrests Flying High at DFW Airport

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. (Published Thursday, April 25, 2019)

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.

CBD contraband seized at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Photo credit: Jose Sanchez, NBC 5 News

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.

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.

TSA workers test for marijuana and hashish at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Photo credit: Jose Sanchez, NBC 5 News

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."

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."

Photo credit: Jose Sanchez, NBC 5 News

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."

Photo credit: Jose Sanchez, NBC 5 News

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.

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."

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