Ask The Vet: Drug Testing in the Horse

Answered by, Clara Fenger, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Georgetown, KY
Courtesy of AAEP

Question: What is the current status of testing for hemp based products? Are terpene levels monitored? 

Answer:Drug testing is not yet focused on testing for terpenes,  as they are a component of many fragrant plants, lininents and hoof conditioners.   However, both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are identified in horse urine and are considered to be violations in horse racing.  THC is a 1A violation and CBD is a 2B violation, regardless of the level found.  In humans, a 15 ng/ml urinary cutoff is in place for THC to prevent positive tests from inadvertent environmental exposure.  There is no human sport in which CBD is considered an illegal substance.

Hemp products comprise a wide spectrum of different feed additives, so it is important for you to know what plant component you are feeding. The Federal government requires that hemp contain less than 0.3% THC, which is well below the 5 to 10% typically found in Marijuana, but sufficient to cause a positive test. Most hemp products, including hemp hearts, hulls and meal are well below 0.3% for THC. Hemp seed oil usually contains very little, if any, of either CBD or THC, as it is simply the oil from the seeds, and the CBD and THC are in the leafy parts of the plant, particularly the flowers. Full spectrum hemp oil is oil pressed from all of the plant parts left over after the fibrous stalks are harvested for textile use. This product contains the terpenes, CBD, other cannabinoids and whatever minimal THC is in the plant. You can differentiate full spectrum hemp oil from hemp seed oil by the color. Hemp seed oil looks clear and yellow, similar to other vegetable oil products, and full spectrum hemp oil is green.

Another confusion about hemp products are those labeled as CBD oil. These products are typically olive or soy oil with purified CBD added. While many of these products are still readily available, the FDA has clearly made their position known, that CBD oil available in this way is a prescription drug. You will gradually see the availability of products labeled with CBD become prescription only.

In conclusion, you need not be concerned about the terpenes in hemp products, but, until screening cutoffs for CBD and THC are developed for horses in competition, you should steer clear of these products if your horse is subject to drug testing.