13-year-old Charlotte Figi — the young girl who inspired the entire CBD industry — has passed away as a result of coronavirus, and the hemp and wellness world are in mourning.
The first day I ever heard (or read) the word CBD, I was introduced to the story of Charlotte Figi.
I had little experience with, or knowledge of, anything cannabis related, and was hesitant to accept an offer from Charlotte’s Web CBD to try cannabidiol for the first time. The woman I spoke with told me that not only would it naturally support my anxiety relief regimen (sans high), but that the company was named for a little girl named Charlotte, whose life had been saved by its hemp products.
“She changed the world. Charlotte Figi was the entire CBD movement wrapped up into a sweet little girl with a big smile and even bigger heart. Her story changed policy about cannabis.” — Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and medical reporter
Charlotte had an extremely rare form of epilepsy; she developed Dravet syndrome as a baby (severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy or SMEI), and by the time she was three years old, she was severely disabled, experiencing a (potentially fatal) seizure every 30 minutes, having 300 grand mal seizures a week… despite using epilepsy treatment.
Her parents had tried everything. At one point she was on seven different medications, including addictive heavy-hitters, like barbiturates and benzodiazepines — all while she was a baby. Her cognitive function declined, and at two-and-a-half years old, her parents put her on the keto diet at the behest of a Dravet specialist in Chicago. It helped for a short while, but had severe side effects including behavioral issues — and then that stopped working, too.
By the time Charlotte was five years old, she lost her ability to walk, talk, and eat. The hospital said there was nothing they could do anymore.
After finding information about a boy in California with Dravet who was finding relief through cannabis, Charlotte’s parents Matt and Paige decided to go through with this “last resort” plan. Her mother Paige went through eons of red tape, paper work, applications, and so many “no” responses before getting Charlotte her own medical marijuana card… just so she could give CBD to her suffering child.
Dr. Margaret Gedde was the one to finally give the family some hope. Acknowledging that the seizures and pharmaceutical medication had done more damage than cannabis could ever do, the decision was made. They got to a dispensary, found a strain of marijuana that was high in CBD and low in THC, paid eight hundred dollars for two ounces, had a friend extract the oil, had the oil tested, and started Charlotte on a small dose.
She stopped having seizures.
“She didn’t have a seizure that day… and then she didn’t have a seizure that night,” her mother recounted in a 2013 interview. This lasted for seven days.
Enter: the Stanley brothers, founders of what is now known as Charlotte’s Web CBD. Paige knew them as Colorado’s leading marijuana growers and dispensary owners; they were creating a hybrid type of cannabis that was high in CBD and low in THC, but they couldn’t sell it (no one wanted to buy it — they called it “Hippie’s Disappointment”). Soon, it would come to be known as Charlotte’s Web, named for little Charlotte Figi.
Charlotte’s parents gave her a dose of the CBD oil twice a day in her food, three to four milligrams of oil per pound of bodyweight. CBD oil reduced Charlotte’s seizures from 300 a week to two to three a month, primarily only while sleeping.
Her story inspired a movement, which directly impacted the legislation we benefit from today.
People began to see that marijuana wasn’t just for stoners or for getting high and playing video games — this plant had the potential to heal small children, and it saved the life of this little girl.
Charlotte was not expected to live past eight years old. Her mother said in a CNN interview last year, “I couldn’t have imagined her turning 12 years old.” But just days ago, at 13, Charlotte lost her life to one final seizure. Her entire family had been sick with suspected COVID-19 symptoms for a month; Charlotte was treated for coronavirus in a Colorado hospital, before pneumonia triggered her seizures. The last seizure led to cardiac arrest and respiratory failure.
“Some journeys are long and bland and others are short and poignant and meant to revolutionize the world. Such was the path chosen by this little girl.” — Realm of Caring Foundation
Her short life changed the world forever. As the Charlotte’s Web team put it, “She grew, cultivated by a community, protected by love, demanding that the world witness her suffering so that they might find a solution.”
CBD is now as accessible as it is, in large part because of this little girl and the pain and struggle she endured. Because of her brave family, and their willingness to stop at nothing to heal their daughter. Because of their commitment to share what they found with the world, and lobby for access. Because of Charlotte’s Web giving medical cannabis to those who needed it on a donation-based, “pay what you can,” model.
Scientists now “beg” to study Charlotte’s Web’s plants, whereas before the Stanley brothers were “laughed out of rooms” when they asked for help understanding the cannabidiol phenomenon. All thanks to Charlotte.
“She changed my mind and opened my eyes to the possibility that this is a legitimate medicine, and in the process, she changed the world,” Sanjay Gupta said on CNN.
So the next time you take your drops of CBD oil, or pop a CBD gummy, or sip a CBD latte, say a silent thank you to Charlotte and her family.
Thank you, Charlotte.
Rest in peace, sweet angel.
To honor Charlotte’s memory, the Figi family has requested that you leave your tribute here. #charlotteslight