Charlotte Figi, the CBD movement pioneer

Charlotte Figi was only three months old when she suffered her first seizure. A few months later, she was diagnosed with a severe illness related to epilepsy. Unfortunately, traditional treatment did not work—until her parents tried CBD oil. Her life and her health changed for the better. Here is Charlotte’s story one year after her death.

Charlotte Figi was not just a girl. The 13-year-old girl became the poster child for CBD. Her parents’ fight to turn medical marijuana prejudices into a natural treatment for her child gave hope to many families in the United States. Parents around the country followed the Figis’ path. 

Charlotte had a short life and a long battle against Dravet Syndrome, a severe and untreatable type of epilepsy. Seizures began when she was three months old and became unstoppable and difficult to control; at age 4, Charlotte was suffering more than 300 attacks per week, according to CNN. Her life was in danger. She was so fragile to the point that more and intense seizures could kill her. Doctors could not find any therapy or medicine to help her, and pills and high-powered drugs hurt her heart and quality of life. That’s when CBD appeared in her life.

Looking for a Treatment

With no traditional treatment working for Charlotte, her parents tried cannabis. Charlotte was five years old. It wasn’t an easy decision: Matt Figi, Charlotte’s father, had to shoot down prejudices. But both Matt and his wife, Paige, decided to take the risk. It was 2012, and getting medical marijuana wasn’t easy. “It was not like going to the pharmacy. There wasn’t any protocol,” explained Paige Figi, Charlotte’s mother, on the 2013 CNN documentary Weed.  

The family moved to Colorado, where marijuana was legal for medicinal and recreational use. But it wasn’t easy there either. No child was asking for that treatment, and they needed two doctors’ authorization to start the trial. One of the doctors was Alan Shackelford, a Harvard-trained physician who had several medical marijuana patients in his care. “There were no more options for her. Everything had been tried except cannabis,” said Shackelford in the documentary. 

Today we know the difference between THC and CBD, but ten years ago, it was all taboo. CBD is well-known to help control anxiety, aid in sleeping, and it could be a treatment for stopping seizures. In 2012, when the Figis started to look into how cannabis could help Charlotte, public perception of THC and CBD deemed them as the same thing: compounds coming from the same “dangerous” drug. And side effects of CBD on children hadn’t been studied. 

CBD Oil Worked for Charlotte

At the same time, finding a strain high on CBD and low on THC was very difficult. Nobody was cultivating it. Paige Figi bought in Denver two ounces of a marijuana type called R4 with high CBD levels and low THC. A friend extracted the oil and they sent it to a lab and started the treatment with Charlotte. “We were pioneering the whole thing; we were guinea pigging Charlotte,” said Paige Figi on CNN. 

Charlotte did not have any seizures the day she took CBD oil for the first time. Not even in the three days after she took it. It had worked for the child. Paige and Matt could not believe it. But the good news didn’t last when the R4 marijuana strain ran out. That was when the family heard about the Stanley Brothers. 

Charlotte’s Web and CBD Today

The Stanley Brothers, two of the most significant cannabis owners and entrepreneurs in the United States, believed in CBD healing properties and dedicated years of study and crossbreeding to get a high CBD strain.

The Figis heard about what they were doing and went to see them. In the beginning, the brothers did not want to use their plant with Charlotte because the risk was unknown. Finally, Paige convinced them. The Stanley’s CBD worked for Charlotte. The child, who had 300 seizures per week before starting with CBD, only had one every seven days in 2012. She started walking again, talking and even eating on her own. Some years later, the Stanley Brothers renamed the strain they used with the child as Charlotte’s Web

The Figis were the first family to ask for this treatment, but not the last. And thanks to Charlotte, the public debate about CBD started. In 2018, the US Government legalized hemp cultivation, and the CBD oil extracted from hemp became legal in 46 States. Federal law states that CBD oil and other products with less than 0,3% of THC are allowed. 

Since Charlotte began with the CBD treatment, scientists and researchers have made enormous progress in understanding CBD properties. Today, studies indicate that CBD helps stress-relieving treatments, can help combat insomnia, and is suitable to help alleviate anxiety. And even though there are no conclusive medical studies, the FDA approved the drug Epidolex for some epileptic-type attacks. A significant step in Charlotte’s battle.

The CBD market has grown in the last five years. In a recent study, BSD Analytics consultant said that CBD sales are expected to exceed $ 20 billion in the United States by 2024, from $1.9 billion in 2018. A compound annual growth rate of 49%. 

This year, April the 7th will be the first Charlotte Figi day in Colorado to remember the CBD movement’s pioneer. Those who discovered CBD thanks to her, and those who will find CBD in years to come, will remember Charlotte’s story.