- CBD and Hemp
by Brandon Jackson
To commemorate Charlotte Figi Day in Colorado on April 7th, we would like to take the time to remember and pay tribute to the young girl this day celebrates. Charlotte Figi passed away at age 13 in April of 2020. Her and her family’s courage has helped hemp and CBD come a long way in a short period of time.
Charlotte suffered from a condition known as Dravet syndrome (interestingly enough named after epileptologist Charlotte Dravet) which causes a catastrophic form of epilepsy. Dravet syndrome is also known as SMEI or Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy. It is characterized as a genetic disorder which causes epilepsy in infants and very young children. This causes many issues with childhood development as well as a 15 to 20% mortality rate.
Charlotte had constant prolonged seizures from a very early age, and would have up to 300 seizures a week. This left her unable to speak or walk. Her family sought out every treatment that western medicine could provide, but found nothing to stop the constant seizures. Often the medications provided would come with severe side effects, or were very experimental and dangerous to Charlotte’s health. Some suggested treatments could have gone as far as putting Charlotte in a medically induced coma.
Exhausted for options, and fully aware that any one of these seizures could possibly kill Charlotte, her parents heard from other parents of children suffering similar conditions about the potentials of cannabis oil. After researching, they decided to try it and found what seemed to be no short of a miracle. Charlotte’s symptoms largely disappeared, and her seizures dropped significantly.
Charlotte’s family, relentless in their pursuit of finding relief for her, found that low THC and high CBD strains were showing the most promising results. In came the Stanley Brothers in 2012, who were medical marijuana growers who developed a high CBD strain which was eventually named Charlotte’s Web. This strain proved to be very helpful to Charlotte’s seizure treatment, and the world started to take notice.
The Stanley Brothers started growing medical marijuana in Colorado in 2009. Colorado voters passed their first medical marijuana bill in 2000, and the state has been in the forefront of a lot of changes to cannabis legislation that is in direct opposition to the United States war on drugs policy.
For too long scientific research and advancements in understanding the cannabis plant have been stifled thanks to prohibition and the war on drugs. In the 1930s, politicians ranting about “The Evils of Weed” outlawed any kind of research that could be done into the benefits of the cannabis plant.
Up to that point, cannabis had been used for millennia by humans as cloth, food, medicine, and thousands of other purposes. Unfortunately propaganda quickly spread and turned this plant into a dangerous enemy of the people. This new war on marijuana unfortunately came during a time when vast new medical research and treatments were being undertaken. From penicillin being discovered to development of vaccines which saved billions of lives. Think of where our understanding of cannabis would be today if scientists were able to actually perform research without fear of arrest or loss of funding. Think of the many children like Charlotte that suffered and died way too prematurely because the law dictated that the only medicine that worked for them did not have any medicinal value.
The United States federal government at this time still lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with no medicinal benefits. Thankfully at least parts of the country have been able to pull their heads from the metaphorical sand. States like Colorado stood up to the federal government and allowed for medical marijuana programs, and eventually pathways to legalization. The Stanley Brothers were able to legally grow cannabis in Colorado, and do their own research into the various beneficial parts of the plant, especially Cannabidiol or CBD. They were able to develop and perfect techniques, and ultimately grow strains like Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte’s family was able to research and find what medicine worked best for her. Something that just a couple decades ago would have come with derision and very stiff legal repercussions, is now actually changing the world.
Charlotte Figi’s story was the basis of documentaries and numerous news stories which spread around the world. Parents who were doing their own research for their children that were suffering from seizures were finding this information useful. They demanded laws be changed in their own areas to allow for things such as CBD oil. This has had a lasting impact, and is a huge contributor to the loosening of laws surrounding hemp and marijuana. Thanks in part to advocacy groups formed by concerned parents, CBD was approved in the United States for the treatment of Dravet Syndrome in 2018.
Change is Coming
Many states such as conservative Utah were even taking notice, and voters were demanding change. Like Charlotte’s parents, other people who were suffering needlessly and wanting to try cannabis for relief were hit with red tape roadblocks, risk of incrimination, or doctors unwilling to provide prescriptions or recommendations due to the war on drugs mentality.
Utah was one of the first states to originally make cannabis illegal back in 1915, and the culture has a long tradition of turning their noses up at intoxicating substances of any kind. Unfortunately this made drug use and abuse harder to see, or for people to admit when they had a problem. The opiate crisis has hit hard in places like Utah, and prescription drug abuse has been prevalent for decades. As the people saw the negative effects of opioids on their friends and family, they demanded other options such as cannabis be made available. After many long fights, Utah started allowing CBD to be recommended by doctors in 2014, and the voters passed a medical marijuana bill in 2018.
At this time in the United States, 35 states have legal medical marijuana programs, and almost all states have lessened restrictions on low THC high CBD cannabis. Hemp and hemp derived CBD is also legal nationwide after the 2018 farm bill took low THC cannabis off the Controlled Substances list. There are still a lot of minds that need to be changed, and many laws that need to be reviewed, rewritten, or repealed. Thankfully there are courageous people such as Charlotte, her family, and the many others whose stories are getting out and really changing minds on the capabilities of cannabis.
The Legacy Continues
Charlotte developed COVID like symptoms in April 2020, in the early days of the pandemic. She passed away on April 7, 2020. Shortly after, Colorado Governor Jared Polis proclaimed April 7 as Charlotte Figi day to commemorate her courageous story. The proclamation reads in part:
Whereas, in Charlotte Figi’s thirteen-year life, the unparalleled impact that Charlotte’s journey made on millions of lives, both in her state of Colorado as the first state in the union to warmly embrace suffering families to create thriving and loving communities, and across the world, and with her role as a pioneering pediatric cannabis patient, creating access to cannabis therapies for thousands of children and millions of people around the world suffering from epilepsy and similar life-limiting conditions, galvanizing the medical research of cannabis as a therapy that fundamentally altered the science and access of CBD, and by becoming a face for the worldwide use of CBD as medicine.
Charlotte’s legacy and attention brought to Dravet Syndrome as well as CBD cannot be underestimated. Without her family and countless others like them, the legal cannabis industry would not have made anywhere near the same amount of progress. We thank them all, and hope that the research to combat Dravet Syndrome and similar diseases continues unabated.