Maryland becomes first state to pass national equine medication compact

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: March 30, 2018

Pending the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan on legislation passed by the General Assembly, Maryland will become ground zero for the Interstate Compact on Anti-Doping and Drug-Testing Standards.

The state Senate March 29 passed the legislation on third reading, which means it now it goes to the governor. Both the Senate and House of Delegates passed the measure unanimously after endorsements by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Maryland Jockey Club, Maryland Horse Breeders Association and Maryland Racing Commission.

The Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association has been working with Mid-Atlantic racing regulators to get the legislation introduced in their respective states. The compact is designed to facilitate uniform passage of previously agreed-upon rules pertaining to equine medication and testing procedures.

The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions led the way in adoption of the National Uniform Medication Program. Other states working on the compact bill this year are Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

“I’m pleased and honored that Maryland has become the first state to approve the compact, and as such is now the offeror for other states to join,” THA Chairman Alan Foreman said. “I look forward to our other Mid-Atlantic partners taking similar action in the near future.”

The Maryland legislation has an effective date of Oct. 1, 2018.

The West Virginia Racing Commission earlier this year prepared compact legislation but backed off after the Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association requested a delay pending a position on the compact from the National HBPA. The latter discussed the compact at its March convention and, because some affiliates support it and some do not, the National HBPA decided it will allow individual affiliates to make their own decisions.

West Virginia is a prime example of a state that would benefit from the compact. Though it has adopted all components of the National Uniform Medication Program, every regulation requires legislative approval, which means it can take a year before a rule is in place.

Foreman said other states outside of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast have expressed interest in joining the compact. He noted the compact language specifically provides for breed-specific rules, so once the compact is formed, members “can organize in a fashion that allows for specific consideration and rules.”

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission at its March 29 meeting approved a motion directing staff to prepare draft language for the compact that will be discussed at its next meeting April 25. The Standardbred industry in Pennsylvania has expressed reservations about the legislation, so PHRC staff will prepare language that offers options, officials said.

The Thoroughbred industry in the state supports the compact, so one option is to move forward with the compact for one breed. At an earlier PHRC meeting, United States Trotting Association President Russell Williams, who lives in Pennsylvania, spoke in favor of the compact.

“Pennsylvania in our view really needs to be in the compact,” Williams said in February. “Pennsylvania is one of the giants in breeding and racing in North America, and any interstate compact that did not include Pennsylvania would be the weaker for it.”

Under the compact structure, each state regulatory agency would have one representative on the compact commission. Each regulatory agency, as it does now, would decide whether to endorse a specific regulation; the compact supports states’ rights and calls for an 80% super-majority vote for a regulation to be adopted.

The Maryland compact legislation is available here.