COLORADO SPRINGS – The doctors were out of ideas to help 5-year-old Charlotte Figi.
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 banning the drug.
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 nonauthorized suppliers offering bogus strains of Charlotte’s Web.
Charlotte is a twin, but her sister, Chase, doesn’t have Dravet’s syndrome, which kills kids before they reach adulthood.
In early 2012, it seemed Charlotte would be added to that grim roster. Her vital signs flat-lined three times, leading her parents to begin preparing for her death. They even signed an order for doctors not to take heroic measures to save her life again should she go into cardiac arrest.
But there was a danger with the drug: Marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, can trigger seizures.
The drug also contains another chemical known as CBD that may have seizure-fighting properties. In October, the Food and Drug Administration approved testing a British pharmaceutical firm’s marijuana-derived drug that is CBD-based and has all its THC removed.