The US Equestrian Federation (USEF) announced May 14 that, effective Sept. 1, horses competing under USEF rules who test positive for natural and/or synthetic cannabinoids and other cannabimimetics will be considered in violation of the federation’s equine drug and medication rules.

Tasked with protecting the welfare of equine athletes and ensuring the balance of competition, USEF’s Equine Drugs and Medications Program monitors new products and product claims. From time-to-time, new products appear on the equine supplement market claiming to enhance a horse’s performance. Over the last several years, cannabinoids have gained increased attention.

In 2018 Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act (the Farm Bill), which defines hemp as both the plant Cannabis sativa L and any cannabis derivatives with less than 0.3% delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). With the bill’s enactment, hemp is no longer considered a controlled substance under federal law, but THC remains a Schedule I drug with the Drug Enforcement Agency. The Farm Bill’s passage has created some potential confusion with respect to the use of these substances with competition horses, the USEF said.

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The USEF Equine Drugs and Medications Rules prohibit cannabidiol ( CBD) and their metabolites. While hemp does not contain more than 0.3% THC, it does contain CBD. In both natural and synthetic forms, CBD is likely to affect a horse’s performance due to its reported anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects, USEF said; this substance is no different than legitimate therapeutics that effect mentation and behavior in horses, the federation added. It is for these reasons USEF prohibits CBD and all related cannabinoids. Horses competing under USEF rules who test positive for natural cannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids and other cannabimimetics will be considered in violation of GR4 beginning Sept. 1, the federation said.

Analytical methods are being implemented to detect CBD and similar cannabinoids. Both USEF and Fédération Équestre Internationale list natural and synthetic cannabinoids and other cannabimimetics as prohibited substances. The USEF encouraged owners to use caution when administering these products as their composition widely varies and might not be representative of their label claims as there is no regulatory oversight from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or guarantee of their safety in horses.

As published literature noting these substances’ detection times in horses does not exist, and because products can widely vary in their compositions and concentrations, detections prior to Sept. 1 will receive warnings; they will be considered to be in “prior” violation if there are additional detections of cannabinoids following September 1, the USEF said. Equine drug and medication rule GR411, “Conditions For Therapeutic Administrations of Prohibited Substances,” does not apply for cannabinoids and medication report forms do not apply, USEF added.

With regards to human use, any athlete who is subject to testing under the World Anti-Doping Code can refer to the regulations for human use of cannabinoids on the World Anti-Doping Association’s website at wada-ama.org/en/questions-answers/cannabinoid).