Charlotte Figi, the namesake of the Charlotte's Web oil.
Courtesy of Paige Figi
Two years ago, Charlotte Figi was losing a lifelong battle to
epilepsy. Her parents were using a hospice program at home
because she wasn’t eating, had chronic pneumonia, and couldn’t
swallow water. At the age of five, Charlotte was suffering up to
50 seizures a day.
Fast forward to today: Charlotte, now seven, is like any other
child. She rides horses, goes to school, and plays with her twin
sister and older brother. Her parents say she is “99%
seizure-free,” suffering usually one seizure a month which is
under control after a few minutes.
“She can hike a couple of miles a day,” Paige Figi, Charlotte’s
mother, told MSNBC. “She can walk, talk, feed herself, has a
normal sleep cycle and she has not taken prescription medication
in two years.”
Charlotte’s miracle? Medicinal marijuana oil.
“We were using [medicinal marijuana] as end of life comfort
measures,” Figi explained. But it turned out that those measures
saved Charlotte’s life.
The movement to legalize medicinal marijuana has a face like
Charlotte’s–and it’s a young one that’s hard to ignore.
Lawmakers across the country are pushing legislation to legalize
marijuana oil as a treatment for children with epilepsy. The
marijuana extract is produced in Colorado and is designed to not
produce a high. Instead, the strain has increased levels of CBD,
a chemical that fights seizures.
The organization theRealm
the marijuana oil strain now known as Charlotte’s Web, which was
named after Charlotte Figi–the first child to test the oil two
years ago. On average, the organization says85%of
people taking Charlotte’s Web have seen a reduction in seizures.
Since the development of Charlotte’s Web, many parents have
traveled to Colorado to treat their children, since the state
law does not have a provision that allows the shipment or sale
of marijuana products out-of-state. Others have gone as far as
to relocate their families to Colorado for the oil. The Realm of
Caring says they have 100 patients who have moved to Colorado
from 43 other states, and there is a waiting list of more than
2,000 people who are willing to relocate. An additional list
exists of more than 4,000 Colorado residents who are waiting for
the oil. Doctors work with the Realm of Caring to determine each
patient’s dosage based on their weight, and the cost of
Charlotte’s Web is about 5 cents per milligram. The Figi
family’s monthly cost for the oil is about $180 a month.
Currently, there is a rapid movement to legalize medicinal
marijuana across the country: four states in March alone
(Kentucky, Utah, Alabama, and Georgia) passed legislation to
allow the use of the marijuana oil for medical purposes. The
fight to allow medicinal marijuana now heads to the floor of the
North Carolina State Assembly, and lawmakers there are doubling
down on their chances of legalizing with two bills up for
consideration. When the assembly reconvenes next month, it will
consider one bill to legalize all forms of medicinal marijuana
and another that focuses solely on the cannabis oil for the
treatment of epilepsy.
“There seems to be a sense that something has got to happen,”
said State Rep. Kelly Alexander, who is sponsoring the bill for
medicinal marijuana. “This is a bipartisan measure to find a way
to alleviate the pain and suffering of those with illnesses.”
Alexander spoke on behalf of his bill when it was introduced to
the North Carolina General Assembly last year, but it was placed
on an “unfavorable report” and put on hold. State Rep. Jonathan
Jordan told theHigh
he was not likely to support the bill unless he saw evidence of
the success of medicinal marijuana, and State Rep. Paul Stam
in Raleigh, “We did it to be done with it so people could
move on for the session.”
Stam claimed lawmakers were being harassed by emails and phone
calls in regards to the bill. MSNBC reached out to Stam, who
declined to comment for this article.
But lawmakers who support marijuana legislation could see an
advantage at the polls in November. In a recentGeorge
Washington University poll, 39% of surveyed voters say they
would be more likely to vote if there was a proposal on the
ballot to legalize marijuana. An additional 30% of those
surveyed said they would be more likely to vote in the 2014
midterm election under that circumstance.
Americans also seem to be more open overall to changing
marijuana laws. Plans to legalize marijuana show a 73% approval
rating while decriminalizing the possession of pot has a 53%
Paige Figi said the opposition in states like North
Carolina was based on preconceived notions about the damages of
marijuana as a whole. “Some states are very conservative and
just won’t allow cultivation because they can’t figure out a way
to regulate it,” Figi said. “There are no negative side effects,
absolutely none. THC has shown long-term cognitive loss, but
that’s not in this oil.”
Recently, the Realm of Caring began cultivating Charlotte’s Web
in the form of hemp, which can be dispersed to a wider
population. The organization is continuing its work to expand
the legalization of medicinal marijuana to other states, sharing
Charlotte’s story as a means to give hope to the families of
“We had a DNR [do not resuscitate] signed,” Figi recalled.
“Nobody thought [Charlotte] had any time left…and now she is
doing amazingly well.”