Coronavirus

Charlotte Figi, Who Showed Americans the Value of Medical Marijuana, Dies of COVID-19 Complications at Age 13

A strain of CBD oil used to treat children with a rare epileptic disorder is named after her.

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A young girl whose lifelong battle with seizures helped changed many minds about the value of medical marijuana died Tuesday from the coronavirus at the age of 13.

News of Charlotte Figi's death was posted on her mother Paige's Facebook page by a family friend. In late March, five members of the Figi family, including Charlotte, got sick and were self-quarantining in Colorado. The Colorado Sun reports that the family had not been able to get tested to determine whether they had been infected with COVID-19. But an organization that Paige belonged to confirmed today that Charlotte's death was due to the coronavirus:

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.

Posted by Paige Figi on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

 

The Facebook post was updated Wednesday afternoon with more details about Charlotte's death. A COVID-19 test actually came back negative at one point but she is nevertheless being treated as a likely COVID-19 case:

Charlotte had a seizure in the early morning on April 7th resulting in respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. Seizures are not uncommon with illness and paramedics were called returning us to the PICU. Given our family's month-long history with illness and despite the negative test results, she was treated as a likely COVID-19 case. Her fighting spirit held out as long as it could and she eventually passed in our arms peacefully.

Charlotte spent much of her life fighting Dravet syndrome, a very rare form of epilepsy that causes children to suffer from long, recurring seizures and resists most medical treatment. About 15 percent of children with Dravet syndrome don't survive to adulthood.

Charlotte's fight to control her seizures became a national story when the family reported that treating Charlotte with cannabidiol oil, more commonly known as CBD, dramatically reduced her seizures. Paige connected Charlotte with medical marijuana producers in Colorado, run by the Stanley brothers, and they developed a strain of cannabis with high levels of CBD, which they made into an oil. That medical marijuana dispensary subsequently named their strain (and later, their whole company) Charlotte's Web after her.

The success of Charlotte's treatment drew families from across the country to Colorado from other states where leaders were dragging their feet on legalizing medical marijuana use. While Charlotte's story was known both to those who followed medical marijuana trends and to families with children struggling with epilepsy, her story became national news in 2013 when CNN reported on her case and the network's chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, reversed his position and declared his support for marijuana as a medical treatment because of Charlotte.

When Charlotte was born, only a handful of states permitted the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Now in 2020, only three states maintain complete bans—Idaho, South Dakota, and Nebraska. And there's a ballot initiative in Nebraska for consideration in November to amend the state's constitution to permit it.

Paige Figi founded the nonprofit Coalition for Access Now, which works to educate Americans about the value of marijuana and CBD oils as a potential treatment for health problems and advocates for changes in the law to allow for legal consumption.

While legal changes are still a fight, especially on the federal level, it's safe to say that the Figi family and Charlotte have succeeded wildly in helping change Americans' view of the value of CBD oils. Now, CBD goods have become trendy—maybe a little too trendy, given those who want to attempt to treat it as a miracle cure for just about anything. The Food and Drug Administration is sending out letters warning CBD companies to stop telling people that their products will protect users from COVID-19. And state governments persist in meddling unnecessarily in the use of CBD in foods and beverages.

It's a tragedy that Charlotte didn't make it to adulthood to fully appreciate how much the Figi family's hard work has helped change the landscape for marijuana policy. More children in Charlotte's situation now have easier access to treatments that can ease their suffering. More research is happening, too, to determine what cannabis can actually do as medicine.

America is a different place now—and a much, much better one when it comes to drug policy—because of the pivotal role played by Charlotte Figi and her family.

This post has been updated with additional information provided by the family about how Charlotte died.

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  1. Fuck. Thanks for the gut punch this early in the day, Shackleford.

  2. Well, ain’t that a kick in the junk. RIP.

  3. R.I.P. Charlotte. May all of the scumbags who wish to deny her and others whose conditions can be relieved by marijuana consumption suffer tenfold.

    1. I’m pretty sure most were arguing against hash brownies, not CBD oil.
      Medical marijuana is a stupid term that obscures the debate.

      1. No, there was a large constituent of people who purposefully conflated CBD oil with reefer madness brownies. Reason reported a lot on Charlotte’s case and what other parents have gone through, up to having their children taken by CPS for the crime of giving them life saving anti seizure medicine that happens to come from a plant that was made illegal.

  4. man that’s awful. kids shouldn’t die.

  5. RIP Charlotte Figi

    As an aside – I don’t know whether other states are having the same mindset problem as CO. Once we caught up with the testing backlog (roughly two weeks ago here), we didn’t change the definitions of either confirmed cases or increase testing/provisioning to focus on those sectors (eg medical workers, front-line grocery, etc) that are the core vectors of transmission now. The result is testing has plateaued at 2000 or so /day and those vectors are creating some real problems – esp re outbreaks at nursing homes.

    IDK whether her inability to get tested occurred before that backlog was resolved (as part of the general American clusterfuck re this) or after.

  6. Man, it’s well worth the trip down memory lane to go back and read the piece on Gupta admitting he had been wrong to trust Government Almighty on the issue of medical marijuana – and pretty much all the commentariat lining up to kick him in the nuts for daring to call himself any kind of scientist when he admits right up front that he didn’t bother doing any research of his own but just acted in accordance with his holy faith. I wonder what Gupta’s been saying lately about the coronavirus. Did he learn a damn thing about being skeptical of anything government scientists say because government scientists are inherently politically biased?

  7. Rest in peace, Charlotte. I’m sorry the world is such a shitty place, but thank you for making it a little better.

  8. Jesus, I’m at work, and a wreck.

  9. I could believe one false negative, but the whole family? Come on.

    Makes me wonder how seriously to take Covid-19 as a public health issue. This is not the first time I’ve heard of someone’s being “presumed” to have it. I don’t know what difference that presumption would make to their case anyway, when as far as I know it’s treated like any other viral pneumonia. (Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine? To the extent they’re good for this virus, they’re probably ust as good for viral pneumonias generally.)

  10. This sad story reminds me that Chris Christie is a dick who had to be shamed into doing the right thing.

  11. I rue the loss of a child for any reason, but the story doesn’t click….

    Colorado’s first two cases were announced on March 5, with their paths being known. How was the entire Figi family exposed at such an early stage in the spread?

    Why does the family (and Shackford) assert that the girl had the virus, when it does not seem anywhere near certain?

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