Kentucky Racehorse Busted for CBD

By Andrew Ward on December 17, 2018

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission plans to knock one forward-thinking trainer off his high horse. 

Last September, state regulators received a drug test for an undisclosed racehorse that produced a positive CBD result. Racing stewards will now run more tests and meet with the trainer to determine if the result is officially a positive, yet in response to the initial test result, the racing commission met yesterday to officially prohibit cannabis compounds and set specific consequences for equine CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) use.

On the same day that Congress voted to legalize CBD-rich hemp, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved a Class A classification for THC and Class B for CBD. These are the two most restricted classes of performance-enhancing drugs. For first-time offenders in the state, a Class A violation can result in a suspension of up to three years and a fine between $5,000 and $10,000, while Class B violators can be suspended for up to 60 days and fined up to $1,000. Class A substances are described as "those that have the highest potential to influence performance in the equine athlete." 

Alcohol, unlike THC and CBD, is not a classified substance. 

Officials like the Commission's medical director, Dr. Mary Scollay, seem alarmed by websites marketing CBD as safe for horses. Dr. Scollay says claims of pain relief and calming effects for racehorses “are all things we don’t want impacting a horse’s racing performance,” adding, “no one’s going around saying it makes their coat shinier… it’s things that would be problematic.” Noting the lack of clinical research on equine cannabis use, Dr. Scollay suggested "there could be big consequences for racehorses.” 

The doctor's concerns over calming and pain relief for the animals were hopefully lost in context. 

Regardless, the Commission makes a valid point about the lack of findings. Only a few studies into CBD and animals exist: A 1988 study of dogs found that CBD was barely absorbed through oral application, though a more recent study found that brief pain in canines decreased significantly with CBD oil. Additionally, groups like Kentucky Equine Research note the healing benefits of hemp oil, which include reducing inflammation and improving respiratory issues and joint health. It is unclear if these effects are also concerns for Dr. Scollay and a race horse’s performance. 

Still, more concrete information may come to light sooner than later. Studies out of Colorado State University and Auburn University aim to discover CBD's impact on dogs with epilepsy. Both studies faced legal hurdles to get to this point in their research—a problem long-preventing CBD research into animals. Now, Dr. Dawn Boothe and her team in Auburn hope to progress their work. That includes attempting to answer dosing questions in dogs, cats and horses. Dr. Boothe believes that plenty of questions could be resolved in the next five or 10 years.

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