In this 2014 photo, Matt Figi hugs and tickles his once severely ill 7-year-old daughter, Charlotte, as they walk together inside a greenhouse for a special strain of medical cannabis known as Charlotte’s Web, which was named after the girl early in her epilepsy treatment. (Brennan Linsley/AP)
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the life of Charlotte Figi, the Colorado girl whose brave public use of medical marijuana to treat epilepsy led to the widespread acceptance of medical cannabis and CBD.
According to reports on social media, Charlotte Figi and some members of her family recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus. After being released from the hospital on Sunday, Charlotte reportedly “took a turn and was rushed back,” but ultimately succumbed to the disease. She was 13 years old.
The Colorado Sun reported the news early this morning, and a family friend posted this on the Facebook page of Paige Figi, Charlotte’s mother, late last night:
This is Nichole writing to update you for Paige, Greg and Matt. Charlotte is no longer suffering. She is seizure-free forever. Thank you so much for all of your love. Please respect their privacy at this time.
An inspiring life
Charlotte lived in Colorado Springs, CO, and was the namesake for the groundbreaking CBD strain known as Charlotte’s Web.
She had her first seizure when she was three months old. By the time she was three, Charlotte was having up to 300 grand mal seizures every week. Diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, Charlotte began to lose her ability to walk and talk.
Her parents, desperate for relief, scoured the internet looking for alternatives to mainstream medical treatments that didn’t appear to help.
Paige Figi, Charlotte’s mother, found a cannabis dispensary in Denver that had a cannabis extract. It was said to be low in THC but high in CBD. After paying $800 for two ounces of the oil, she gave a small dose to Charlotte.
“When she didn’t have those three, four seizures that first hour, that was the first sign,” Paige later told CNN. “And I thought well, ‘Let’s go another hour, this has got to be a fluke.’”
But the seizures stopped for a week and were then reduced to just two or three a month, and allowed Charlotte to stop her other seizure medications.
The Figi family then began to work with the Stanley brothers, six Colorado-based siblings who grew cannabis and who were working on a high-CBD, low-THC strain. Extracts from those crops were used to treat Charlotte and other seizure patients. The Stanley brothers named the strain Charlotte’s Web to honor the girl who inspired it.
The Stanley brothers also established a non-profit organization, the Realm of Caring Foundation, which donates cannabis to both adults and children suffering from a variety of diseases and ailments.
CNN, Sanjay Gupta told the world
Charlotte’s story, and the apparent success of cannabis as an alternative medical treatment, made international news in 2013 when she was featured in a CNN documentary called “Weed,” hosted by the network’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
In an editorial published on CNN’s website at the time, titled “Why I changed my mind on weed,” Gupta said Charlotte’s story was a revelation to him.
“I have seen more patients like Charlotte first hand,” he wrote, “spent time with them and come to the realization that it is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that could involve marijuana.”
“We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”
Gupta’s words and the CNN documentary broke down a lot of conventional medical wisdom about marijuana and cannabis. It is also credited with changing public opinion on medical cannabis.
‘A little girl who carried us all on her small shoulders’
On the Charlotte’s Web website, the Stanley brothers have published a memorial to their “beloved sister.”
“Charlotte was ten feet tall and carried the world on her shoulders,” they wrote.
“Inspiring is a lacking word, as are courageous and vivacious and strong and beautiful. She was divine.”
The tribute honors her family and notes that Charlotte helped to create both a cause as well as “a foundation of plant-based health that breathed life into their daughter, and the countless sons and daughters like her.”
“Her story built communities, her need built hope, and her legacy will continue to build harmony,” the tribute added. “She was a light that lit the world. She was a little girl who carried us all on her small shoulders.”
The company Charlotte’s Web remembered Figi in this tweet: