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A 71-year-old grandmother arrested for carrying CBD oil while travelling: “I slept on the floor, next to the toilet”

Lena Bartula, 71 is an accomplished artist and a proud granny who had quite a disturbing experience as she passed through North Texas on her way to visit her grand daughter in Oregon. It was almost a nightmare, said the 71 year old Lena who had been arrested for carrying CBD oil in her travel bag.

The police officials came and slapped the handcuffs on her at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The Fort Worth native, who resides in an artist community in Mexico, was told that she had been arrested.  

Bartula explains her first hand reaction to situation saying, “I think I almost laughed out loud, because I thought that couldn’t really be,” in a Skype interview with NBC 5 Investigates. Soon, she realized that it wasn’t something to laugh or joke about and was driven to the DFW Airport Jail where she slept on the floor, next to the toilet.

This experience was a far cry from the peaceful, beautiful community in Mexico where Lena runs a popular gallery. She said it only got worse from the next day onwards – her arms and legs were shackled, and she was moved to the Tarrant County Jail in Fort Worth to spend another night behind the bars, facing a felony drug charge.

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

NBC 5 Investigates showed records that other travellers who were carrying CBD at the airport were also arrested. Two of them were still waiting for the outcome of their cases.

CBD is basically a hemp derived compound which is non-psychoactive in nature. It is widely popular for its healing capabilities and purported health benefits. Cannabinoid helps reduce inflammation, pain, swelling, anxiety, insomnia and also treat some severe ailments such as cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.

Though these claims are not backed up by internationally recognized scientific research or study as of now, there is in-depth research going on in the area to understand how CBD works and how it can be incorporated in our daily lives to treat diseases without any possible harmful after effects.

The chemical which causes the “high” when people smoke weed is known as THC or tetrahydro cannabinoid. According to the federal law which passed the Farm Bill in December 2018 that legalized hemp derived CBD, only 0.3% THC is allowed in individual products.

Despite of this threshold concentration of 0.3%, many states and lawmakers are reluctant to let go off their previous laws which either completely bans CBD or allows CBD with only 0% THC.

Now, CBD products are currently unregulated in the market. Though companies claim that their products are free from THC, drug tests reveal some tiny fragments of the chemical which ultimately puts the user in a negative position and also lands them up behind the bars in extreme cases.

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In 2018, arrests for CBD at the airport were almost negligible, said Cleatus Hunt Jr., area port director for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at DFW. Hunt said that in the last six months, the interception has skyrocketed.

Attorneys for the CBD industry argue that federal authorities have no right to detain someone with CBD as it was legalized back in December 2018 and removed from the list of Controlled Substances. However, the Customs officials said that they were still in the process of implementing the new federal rules and until that is done completely, THC is still an illegal chemical which is prohibited at ports of entry.

As a mandatory rule, if the federal authorities discover CBD with THC in any product, they will inform the airport police which will most likely make an arrest as the state law still prohibits any amount of THC in it. CBD oil has become a buzzing word in the market space with immense growth potential.

Patients have started replacing their regular medically prescribed drugs with CBD and have also showed signs of improvement within a few days of usage. It actually helps deal people with seizures, anxiety and acute pains.

As for Bartula, she said that the CBD oil was for her aches and joints which had been bothering her since a long time. Her case was dropped when a Tarrant County grand jury declined to move it forward. But, the arrest and time she spent in the jail has left scars on her memory about how never to pack CBD again while travelling.

Ivan writes about Cannabis at The Cannabis Radar. He has a degree in Nutrition Sciences from University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre. He likes to spend his spare time reading to his daughter or spending time with his wife.

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