The doctors were out of ideas to help 5-year-old Charlotte Figi. As a last resort her mother called medical marijuana shops to ease the 300 seizures her daughter was having every week.
Suffering from a rare genetic disorder, she had as many as 300 grand mal seizures a week, used a wheelchair, went into repeated cardiac arrest and could barely speak. As a last resort, her mother began calling medical marijuana shops.
Two years later, Charlotte is largely seizure-free and able to walk, talk and feed herself after taking oil infused with a special pot strain. Her recovery has inspired both a name for the strain of marijuana she takes that is bred not to make users high — Charlotte’s Web — and an influx of families with seizure-stricken children to Colorado from states that ban the drug.
“She can walk, talk; she ate chilli in the car,’’ her mother, Paige Figi, said as her dark-haired daughter strolled through a cavernous greenhouse full of marijuana plants that will later be broken down into their anti-seizure components and mixed with olive oil so patients can consume them. “So I’ll fight for whoever wants this.’’
Doctors warn there is no proof that Charlotte’s Web is effective, or even safe.
In the frenzy to find the drug, there have been reports of non-authorised suppliers offering bogus strains of Charlotte’s Web. In one case, a doctor said, parents were told they could replicate the strain by cooking marijuana in butter. Their child went into heavy seizures.
“We don’t have any peer-reviewed, published literature to support it,’’ Dr. Larry Wolk, the state health department’s chief medical officer, said of Charlotte’s Web.
Still, more than 100 families have relocated since Charlotte’s story first began spreading last summer, according to Mrs Figi and her husband and the five brothers who grow the drug and sell it at cost through a non-profit. The relocated families have formed a close-knit group in Colorado Springs, the law-and-order town where the dispensary selling the drug is located. They meet for lunch, support sessions and hikes.
“It’s the most hope lots of us have ever had,’’ said Holli Brown, whose 9-year-old daughter, Sydni, began speaking in sentences and laughing since moving to Colorado from Kansas City and taking the marijuana strain.
Amy Brooks-Kayal, vice president of the American Epilepsy Society, warned that a few miraculous stories may not mean anything — epileptic seizures come and go for no apparent reason.
Few dispensaries stock CBD-heavy weed that has the THC removed because the THC is what gets you high. CBD, or cannabidiol, lacks the psychoactive effects of smoking pot but retains many of the medicinal benefits, including its anti-seizure and anti-inflammatory effects.
Luckily enough, Paige Figi found Joel Stanley.
One of 11 siblings raised by a single mother and their grandmother in Oklahoma, Mr Stanley and four of his brothers had found themselves in the medical marijuana business after moving to Colorado. Almost as an experiment, they bred a low-THC, high-CBD plant after hearing it could fight tumours.
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