Charlotte Figi is girl from Colorado who suffers from Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy and after whom the strain Charlotte's Web was named. Her story has led to her being described as "the girl who is changing medical cannabis laws across America".
Charlotte, born October 18, 2006 to Matt and Paige Figi, was diagnosed with Dravet syndrome (also known as severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy or SMEI) when she was two years old. It is a condition where 80% of individuals have a mutation of the SCN1A gene. According to her parents, Charlotte was having 300 seizures a week, seizures so violent that her parents put a do not resuscitate order in her medical records. She would have seizures that lasted for several hours and had to be hospitalised regularly as a result.
Before trying medical marijuana, the Figis had already tried "every other option" including Valium, Morphine and other destructive chemical drugs with little or no success. Paige Figi was inspired by the experience of Jayden David, another child with Dravet syndrome, who had been using medical cannabis since June 2011. Later Jayden's father stated that sufferers should be able to experiment with different THC and CBD ratios from the whole plant, and that the low THC Charlotte's Web oil preparation did not help Jayden.
With the cooperation of two physicians licensed in Colorado to prescribe medical marijuana, Margaret Gedde and Alan Shackelford, they tried a strain called R4 which was low in THC and high in CBD and saw an immediate and dramatic improvement. With their supply of R4 running out, they sought the help of the Stanley brothers, "one of the state's largest marijuana growers and dispensary owners". The Figis examined the options available and tried the variety which later would carry the name of their daughter. The brothers had crossbred a strain of cannabis with industrial hemp and it showed potential for medical purposes. Her parents and physicians said her seizures were reduced to two to three per month, and that she improved after being put on a regular regimen. The Stanley brothers then changed the name of the strain from "Hippie's Disappointment" to "Charlotte's Web". Rather than smoking the product, Charlotte uses an oil solution containing the high CBD cannabis extract that she receives under her tongue or in her food. Her parents said in 2013 that she had about four seizures per month, and is able to engage in normal childhood activities. Charlotte's mother Paige said of the drug: "It's helped everything. She has over 99% seizure control. She doesn't use her feeding tube anymore. She doesn't have her autistic behavior anymore, and she doesn't have severe sleep disorders. She can walk – she's not in her wheelchair at all – and she's talking. She couldn't talk before, and now she's talking. It's been a totally life-changing event, totally life-changing medicine."
Charlotte's story has been featured on CNN documentaries including Weed 2: Cannabis Madness and also on The Doctors TV show, among many other sources. An article in the National Journal detailing the role of several children as "uniquely powerful advocates for medicinal pot across the country" described Charlotte as the "first poster child for the issue...." Her story has led to her being described as "the girl who is changing medical cannabis laws across America," as well as the "most famous example of medicinal hemp use..."
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a medical marijuana bill allowing the use of Charlotte's Web to treat diseases such as epilepsy. Her case has also led to the legalisation of medical marijuana in states across the United States with medical cannabis being used to help treat many other children with Dravet syndrome. After signing the bill in Florida, Governor Scott said: "As a father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer. The approval of Charlotte's Web will ensure that children in Florida who suffer from seizures and other debilitating illnesses will have the medication needed to improve their quality of life. I am proud to stand today with families who deserve the ability to provide their children with the best treatment available."
- Parents say toddler can now walk and talk for the first time thanks to treatment Daily Mail. Retrieved December 21, 2014
- Charlotte Figi's Story Brings Families to Colorado for Her Medical Marijuana Strain Reason. Retrieved December 21, 2014
- Medical Marijuana Charlotte's Web, ABC. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- A Limited Amount of “Caring”: Parents and Advocates React to Realm of Caring’s Federal CBD-Only Bill, Ladybud. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Marijuana stops child's severe seizures, CNN. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Epilepsy Patients Flock to Colorado After Medical Pot Gives Them Hope, CBS. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Charlotte Figi: The Girl Who is Changing Medical Marijuana Laws Across America, International Business Times. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Official Web Site, The Doctors. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Hemp Industry Overview, Boulder Weekly. Retrieved December 21, 2014.