Charlotte Figi, the Colorado girl who inspired the CBD movement, dies from coronavirus

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Charlotte Figi, the Colorado Springs girl who, as a gleeful and fragile child, launched a movement that led to sweeping changes in marijuana laws across the globe, has died from complications related to the new coronavirus.

She was 13.

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Charlotte had Dravet syndrome, a rare and debilitating form of epilepsy that first appears when children are young. From the time she was just 3 months old, Charlotte suffered hundreds of small and large seizures a day. Pharmaceutical treatments proved ineffective, and, by the age of 5, Charlotte struggled to walk and talk and required a feeding tube.

After hearing about a family in California that treated their child’s seizures with oil made from cannabis, Paige Figi began to research the possibility and soon connected with a Colorado Springs medical marijuana dispensary owner named Joel Stanley, who, along with his brothers, had helped developed a strain of cannabis rich in cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound.


Paige Figi said Charlotte’s seizures reduced dramatically when she began taking CBD oil, so much so that Paige weaned Charlotte off anti-epileptic pharmaceutical drugs. Charlotte soon was able to walk, play and feed herself. Her story was featured in academic literature. Last month, Paige posted on Facebook that it had been five years since Charlotte’s feeding tube was removed.

In her honor, the Stanley brothers named their CBD product Charlotte’s Web.

Charlotte’s story took on global significance, though, in 2013, when she appeared in a documentary by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. The documentary showed Charlotte laughing and playing, her seizures quelled by CBD.


For families across the world whose children suffered from Dravet and similar conditions, the video clips were a revelation and a hope — and hundreds of families moved to Colorado seeking CBD for their children under the state’s medical marijuana laws. The migration was so large, families had a name for themselves: marijuana refugees.


Charlotte soon became a prominent face of the medical marijuana movement across the country and the world, and Paige Figi and the Stanley brothers became outspoken advocates for legalizing CBD. Laws to do that swept to victory in statehouses, even in conservative states.

Today, 47 states now have laws permitting CBD products in some form. Hemp is legal federally. Charlotte’s Web is one of the best-selling CBD products on the market, posting $95 million in revenue last year. And Charlotte’s story has been credited with softening opposition to broader marijuana legalization, as well.

 
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