Charlotte Figi, the 13-year-old girl revered as “the face of the medicinal CBD movement,” passed away on Tuesday from complications related to Covid-19. Charlotte suffered from Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. Her struggle with the seizure disorder, and the remarkable benefits she experienced through cannabidiol (CBD) treatment, has been chronicled in the public eye for many years.
Charlotte reportedly experienced her first seizure when she was 3 months old, and by age 5 she was enduring over 300 seizures a week, once every 30 minutes. Efforts to alleviate her seizures with dozens of medications were unsuccessful, and Charlotte’s parents, Paige and Matt, were told by physicians that there was “nothing left to try pharmaceutically.” In a desperate effort, they began researching the benefits of CBD. Months later, following an exhaustive search, Paige eventually found a hemp grower who agreed to extract CBD oil for experimental use.
“I didn’t think it would work,” Charlotte’s mother told the New York Times. After years of battling Dravet syndrome, Charlotte had lost the ability to walk, talk, and eat. The constant seizures caused her heart to stop multiple times, and following one of many emergency hospitalizations, Charlotte’s parents eventually signed a do-not-resuscitate order. Doctors suggested putting her in a medically induced coma to ease the suffering. The bleak prognosis led the Figi’s to the edge of hopelessness, and in desperation they turned to CBD. The results were astonishing.
After starting CBD treatment, Charlotte went seven days without a seizure. Following years of failed attempts to treat her seizures through pharmaceuticals, Charlotte was suddenly thriving. “I didn’t hear her laugh for six months,” Paige told CNN. “I didn’t hear her voice at all, just her crying.” But after her first CBD treatment, Charlotte was making progress that her parents had never imagined.
Incredibly, by age 6, she was only experiencing seizures two-to-three times per month, and was walking, talking, and riding her bike. The effectiveness of the CBD treatment left the Figi’s overwhelmed. Understandably, they were overcome with joy. But with the results of Charlotte’s CBD treatment being so immediate and dramatic, they were equally confounded.
“Why were we the ones that had to go out and find this cure? This natural cure? How come a doctor didn’t know about this?,” Matt asked in a 2013 interview with CNN. “How come they didn’t make me aware of this?” At the time, cannabis products were illegal in the family’s home state of Colorado.
Charlotte’s improvement inspired the Paiges to enact change. They were determined to inform the public of the benefits of CBD. “I want to scream itfrom the rooftops. I want other people, other parents, to know that this is a viable option,” Matt told CNN. Ultimately, their efforts incited a movement.
Charlotte’s story made headlines around the world, and countless epileptic patients have experienced similar results after being educated on the benefits of CBD. She was featured in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary, “Weed,” and after witnessing her improved condition first-hand, Gupta became an advocate for the use of CBD to treat epilepsy.
In 2011, Charlotte’s Web CBD was founded by Joel Stanley, the hemp grower who Paige contacted after researching cannabidiol. The company was named after her. Stanley and the Paige family would later establish the Realm of Caring Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing cannabis to adults and children unable to afford treatment for diseases including epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s.
Charlotte’s impact on the cannabis community is immeasurable. Her struggle with Dravet syndrome provided a unique perspective on the medicinal benefits of CBD that ultimately led to a cultural shift in perception. She definitively played a role in helping to enact changes in laws throughout the nation that would have been unthinkable only a decade earlier, making cannabis/CBD accessible, even mainstream. Her story offered a gift to millions suffering from epilepsy that transcended inspiration or hope; it offered an alternative. An alternative that, prior to her story making headlines around the world, was sadly unavailable to so many in need.
Charlotte’s life was changed through CBD treatment. Her story changed lives, hearts, and minds. For Dr. Sanjay Gupta, she even changed the world.
In a column for CNN, Gupta wrote:
“Charlotte changed the world. She certainly changed my world and my mind. She opened my eyes to the possibility of cannabis being a legitimate medicine. She showed me that it worked to stop her crippling seizures, and that it was the only thing that worked. She was proof that withholding a medication, even one that comes in the form of a plant, would be as much a moral failing as a medical one. She set me on a journey throughout the world to visit the scientists, the researchers and the countless patients just like her. She inspired me to dig deeper and not simply dismiss this plant as I had done in the past. She made me smarter, more informed and more thoughtful.”
Shortly after her death was announced, an outpouring of support from thousands spread across Paige Figi’s Facebook page. “Charlotte is no longer suffering. She is seizure-free forever,” a family friend wrote. “Thank you so much for all of your love.”