Many CBD users will point to 2018—the year the Farm Bill passed effectively legalizing hemp-extract—as the year it all began. But for Charlotte Figi’s family, their incredible journey with the healing powers of CBD began nearly a decade prior.
At just 3 months old, Figi suffered her first seizure. More quickly followed suit, and before long, Figi was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a debilitating and rare form of epilepsy that begins in infancy. By the age of 5, The New York Times reports that Figi suffered nearly 300 seizures a week—that’s about 1 every 30 minutes. Things like eating became impossible, forcing her into a wheelchair and feeding tube. Figi was unresponsive to prescription medications, and the future appeared bleak at best.
Then, Figi’s mother Paige discovered CBD.
What began as a passive search for alternative treatments grew into a fight that would inspire a movement. Because after years of searching for something—anything—that might ease her daughter’s seizures, she finally found it.
“I didn’t think it was going to work,” Paige Figi told The New York Times.
To her surprise, it did. Charlotte went from near-constant seizures to not having any for seven days after beginning CBD treatments.
“She started talking, making eye contact, walking, and we removed her feeding tube. The seizures were reduced to about one a month.”
At the time, CBD remained in the precarious “medical marijuana” category that skirted the line between miracle drug and illegal substance. The Figis knew from first-hand experience that CBD held the potential to be a breakthrough treatment for epilepsy and possibly many more medical ailments, and they decided to tackle the stigma that has kept it out of their hands for so long.
The Colorado-based Figis found guidance and resources from local hemp growers in the area. In 2011, one of them by the name of Joel Stanely founded Charlotte’s Web CBD company in her honor.
Charlotte Figi became a shining example in CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary “Weed” in 2013, which explored the validity of claims to legalize cannabis. Dr. Gupta’s conversations with the Figis played a role in the neurosurgeon's decision to change his mind on his stance for the legalization of medicinal cannabis. Before, it was a solid no. After, it was a resounding yes.
2018 marked a pinnacle year for the Figis and those invested in seeing CBD legalized, as it saw the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the first CBD medication, Epidiolex, to treat the seizures accompanying Dravet’s syndrome, and also the passage of the colloquially known Farm Bill that legalized CBD across the U.S.
2020 would become another important year in the history of CBD, but not for the reasons anyone would’ve hoped. After 9 years of courageously fighting Dravet Syndrome, Charlotte Figi passed away in April 2020 after complications with what was suspected to be Covid-19. She was 13 years old.
While Charlotte’s life may have been cut short, her legacy will remain intact. Even without fully realizing, she was a brave and pioneering force in the CBD industry who’s impact will never be forgotten.
“She found incredible resolution from cannabis but she didn’t know,” Paige Figi told The New York Times. “She had a good life.”