The history of medical cannabis goes back to ancient times. In many parts of the word, our ancestors mixed cannabis into tinctures to treat pain and other ailments. In the 19th century cannabis was introduced for therapeutic use in Western medicine. In the U.S. cannabis was widely used in the form of a medicine called, Marinol, a drug used as a treatment for appetite stimulant, anti-emetic, analgesic, and sleep apnea.
Prohibition of cannabis started in 1913 on the state level but it was not until 1970 that the US decided to make the use of cannabis illegal Federally and drop it from the list of ingredients accepted in medicine. By labeling it as a Schedule I controlled substance it not only made it illegal for consumption but impossible to get approval for important medical studies.
Because cannabis was vilified and all legitimate medical studies stopped, we lost the knowledge of how cannabis could help our bodies and suffered for it.
In 1996 California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis with the approval of Proposition 215. Though, little-by-little, laws on the state level were starting to legalize medical marijuana, cannabis could not shake the stigma attached to it to get any real traction. That is, until the CBD movement started.
Though many people and organizations played a role in bringing the CBD movement to the forefront one of the most inspiring stories is that of Charlotte Figi.
Who is Charlotte Figi?
Charlotte Figi was a beautiful little girl born in 2006 who suffered from Dravet syndrome. Dravet syndrome is a catastrophic form of epilepsy producing prolonged febrile and non-febrile seizures. Her condition started at 3 months of age and by age five she was having up to 300 grand mal seizures a week, could hardly speak and was confined to a wheelchair. Many children who suffer with this syndrome die young due to the damage the seizures inflict on their brain and body.
The medicines her doctors prescribed her were not working and her family was desperate to find something to help save their daughter. For two years they tried everything they could think of like special diets, acupuncture, and heavy medications that caused even worse side effects. At the end of their rope, they came across a video interview of a father who had given his son CBD to treat the same condition their daughter had. Due to the stigma attached to cannabis and their own personal beliefs they did not look further into it until it became their last resort.
What Does Charlotte Have to do With Medical Marijuana?
In Colorado at the time, medical CBD was just becoming legal but to receive it you needed a prescription card. In Colorado, 2 doctors are required to obtain a card for a child. This makes the process difficult and time-consuming, but the Figi family did not give up and Charlotte was one of the first children in that state to obtain a medical marijuana card.
In their quest to find a strain of marijuana that was high in CBD but low in THC, which was rare at the time, Paige searched every dispensary she could and found one bag at one dispensary that had the right ratio of CBD to THC. She purchased the whole bag and hoped for the best.
The first time Paige gave Charlotte the medicinal CBD oil it was the first day in Charlotte’s she went without a seizure. Miraculously the medical CBD kept her seizure free for days. Finally, the Figi’s had found an answer, but it was overshadowed by the fact that that bag was one of a kind and there was no more to be found.
In their search to find more they came across the Stanley brothers. Paige called them and asked them to make a strain for their daughter. At first, they did not want to do it because of the lack of medical knowledge on how it might affect children and the stigma surrounding it. However, when they met Charlotte, they knew they had to help.
They created a special strain just for her called, Charlotte’s Web and because of this medicine she went from 300 seizures a day to 1 every 7 days, was no longer bound to her wheelchair, could talk and even feed herself. Today that same strand has helped so many other children gain a quality of life once thought impossible due to their seizures.
What Did Charlotte Do for the CBD Movement?
Because of her miraculous story, she was featured on a special in 2013 that aired on CNN titled Weed by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, showcasing all sides of the debate on weed and medical marijuana.
Her inspiring story was one of others that helped reshape public opinion regarding medical cannabis and gave the CBD movement the push it needed to reach widespread state legalization.
The CBD movement has given hope to many patients who had reached the end of the line in terms of medicines that can help, Through the legalization of medical marijuana it has helped patients gain access to medical cannabis that they could not normally afford and created a market that is more widely available.
On April 7, 2020, Charlotte Figi passed away at the age of 13, from complications brought on by pneumonia. Two weeks later, Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order proclaiming April 7th Charlotte Figi Day in Colorado.
“Whereas, on April 7th, 2020 Charlotte Figi passed away, having left the world with a life-changing story of overcoming adversity through courage and grace, impacting the lives of many millions whose wellness and dignity was in part made possible by Charlotte and the Figi family’s devotion to finding a therapy, the great and loving State of Colorado shall honor her life and encompass her journey through our continued dedication to unearthing solutions, discovering community strength, and embodying the love of Charlotte,”
To watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s moving tribute to Charlotte check out Honoring Charlotte Figi.
Today, Charlotte’s story is one of many where people are finding medical marijuana to be the answer they were hoping for to obtain a better quality of life through their debilitating conditions. By creating a stigma around something and making it illegal to use and impossible to study we are creating a situation in which we know very little and in turn that can lead to great suffering.