Aviation

Planning to fly out of DFW or just driving on airport property? Don’t bring marijuana.

Whether you’re flying into DFW or perhaps just driving across the sprawling airport property, police have a message for you.

“Please don’t travel with your marijuana,” said Lonnie Freeman, DFW Airport Department of Public Safety assistant chief.

While other Texas cities are dealing with a new state law that makes it difficult to prosecute marijuana possession cases, DFW Airport police are pressing ahead with their enforcement of Texas cannabis laws.

The airport board of directors on Thursday is expected to approve an amended contract with a forensics laboratory that includes an additional $160,000. Much of the money would be used to test seized contraband for the presence of THC — which is the ingredient in marijuana that produces the euphoric “high” feeling.

At DFW, the airport police are often called upon to process travelers who have been caught with marijuana or other illegal substances at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, or elsewhere in the terminals. The police also patrol the 17,000-acre airport, and sometimes find contraband during traffic stops and other incidents.

A state law enacted earlier this year — with the goal of allowing farmers to produce a legal hemp crop — legalized products with less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In many Texas cities, prosecutors have dismissed hundreds of marijuana possession cases, arguing that they don’t have the funds to arrange for THC testing in every case.

Prior to this year, products with any amount of THC were considered illegal in Texas.

In Tarrant County, 235 cases were dismissed after the new law went into effect in June, officials in the district attorney’s office said.

DFW Airport police didn’t immediately have statistics on how much marijuana is seized in their jurisduction during a typical month or year, Freeman said.

Last year, a 72-year-old grandmother was jailed after her medicinal CBD oil — another legal product similar to marijuana, but without the high TCH level — was confiscated at a DFW Airport customs checkpoint.

With 11 states and the District of Columbia now legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, it’s not uncommon for some travelers to fly in and out of DFW Airport with marijuana — either because they mistakenly brought their stash with them, or perhaps incorrectly thought they would be immune from prosecution.

States that have legalized recreational marijuana included California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts and Nevada — all of which have frequent nonstop service to and from DFW.

The DFW Airport board’s contract with Pennsylvania-based National Medical Service calls for an additional $160,000 to be spent on lab services, for a total contract amount of $209,450. The agreement, if approved by the board, will be extended through September 2020.

The company is based in Pennsylvania but also has a lab in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Freeman said.

Even so, it often takes days or even weeks to receive lab results, he said.

DFW Airport straddles the Tarrant County-Dallas County line. So, when DFW police make an arrest, they typically decide which county district attorney’s office to file the case based upon where on airport property the incident occurred. Most arrests in the DFW Airport passenger terminals are processed in Tarrant County, since all five terminals are on the west side of the county line, officials said.

Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.
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