In 2013, Sanjay Gupta of CNN covered an in-depth glimpse into the life of Charlotte Figi, a Colorado girl with a severe, debilitating form of epilepsy known as Dravet Syndrome. Starting in infancy, this progressive, medication-resistant nightmare was a nightmarish ordeal for Charlotte and her family. Charlotte was suffering through 300 grand mal seizures every week. Let that sink in – for most of us, it’s unimaginable.
Desperate and running out of options, her family meticulously adjusted her diet and used up to seven medications (including heavy-duty controlled substances) to treat her symptoms, but not only did the seizures remain, the physical and developmental toll of her treatments was painfully evident. Five-year-old Charlotte could no longer walk, talk, or eat. Then, in November of 2000, Colorado approved a statewide medical marijuana registry through the passing of Amendment 20. Charlotte's parents had consistently voted against marijuana laws before Charlotte's birth. However, having exhausted every other option, they put aside their reservations and fought to make Charlotte the youngest member to ever make the medicinal registry. In her first week using CBD oil, Charlotte – whose seizures had been occurring three or four times every hour – did not have a single seizure. In fact, in the year that followed, she’d had only one or two every month, much milder than before and usually in her sleep. Her parents have since told everyone who would listen about the compound that not just saved their daughter from the brink of death, but – by granting her ability to laugh, dance, and ride a bike again – gave Charlotte her life back.
The strain that first gave Charlotte normal functioning is now named in her honor – Charlotte’s Web. While Charlotte’s remedy was primarily dispersed through tincture, CBD can also be consumed through a JUUL pen, other vaporizers, or even smoked through a water pipe. However users consume it, Charlotte’s incredible story and its subsequent media coverage has helped to bring CBD beyond former misconceptions or obscurity. Since the documentary by the same name was released, thousands more have found refuge in CBD and sought to share their stories with the world. CBD has gained traction in state and federal legislature.
Given that clear federal standards on CBD are still lacking (despite CBD’s legality), Colorado officials have enforced statewide regulatory standards to bridge the federal gaps. From 2014 to 2017, very few (if any) CBD and hemp manufacturers were subjected to federal investigations. Former White House lawyer James Prochnow assures us that this isn’t a cause for concern – quite the opposite, in fact. While routine business audits may occur, federal investigations are uncommon without a safety concern, as with the diet pill ephedra. CBD has been held to the legal rigor of all food and drug manufacturing counterparts, and by all accounts. These state standards for foods and medications, mirroring the GMPs or “good manufacturing practices” put forth by the FDA, have been rigorously upheld, holding near-impeccable marks throughout consistent regulatory scrutiny.
In 2018, the FDA released the very first plant-based cannabinoid medicine. Epidiolex is the answer to the prayers of those suffering from severe forms of epilepsy like Charlotte Figi. Prior to its FDA approval, all forms of CBD were classified as a Schedule I drug – meaning that CBD served no medicinal value – shocking and outraging all proponents and researchers who know that this is not the case. What infuriated the public is that no research supported that claim – it was guilt by association with cannabis, and a lack of research to the contrary, which resulted in this hasty condemnation. Thankfully, a recent review amended that CBD does, in fact, offer significant medicinal value with no significant risk for abuse or dependence. The Schedule I classification was officially cast aside, and CBD was reclassified into the least restrictive category for a drug – with further clarification that scheduling of any kind was unwarranted, and only assigned in compliance with a fifty year old treaty. After examining the eight key aspects for classification of any substance, they noted that it falls below the threshold of their least restrictive category. CBD is available in Colorado and most other states at nearby head shops, smoke shops and pipe stores – and tools for its consumption like JUUL pens are just as accessible.
Prior to its reclassification, parents like Charlotte’s would risk incarceration, steep fines, or the very custody of their children in a desperate attempt to obtain CBD and finally stop their pain. Epidiolex is an immense step in the right direction, and having it available for prescription may save future patients the years of suffering Charlotte endured as her parents searched for an answer.
Research has shown that CBD’s benefits extend far beyond the symptoms of epilepsy – in fact, studies show more than fifty maladies in which users have benefitted from its use. Many more studies are underway currently. One examines CBD’s efficacy in the treatment of comorbid Alcohol Use Disorder and PTSD, and is funded by the National Institute of Health. Another looks at CBD’s potential to alleviate motor disturbances caused by Parkinson’s Disease. Users with a variety of physical and psychological maladies have sworn by CBD anecdotally, and more and more research is supporting what its advocates have shouted from their rooftops. Furthermore, with many communities in the grips of the opioid epidemic, having a non-addictive, non-intoxicating, FDA-endorsed substance available at your nearest head is itself a major relief.
For users who seek CBD to treat issues other than seizures, they can head to their nearest vape shop or medicinal store!