By Melissa Hutsell
On Monday, April 7th, 2020, Charlotte Figi—namesake of high-CBD, low-THC strain, Charlotte’s Web—died. She was 13 years old.
Charlotte’s death was announced on her mother’s, Paige Figi, Facebook page in a message that read, “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.”
The post has since been updated to provide clarification on Charlotte’s cause of death, which was reportedly caused by complications of COVID-19, according to Realm of Caring, a nonprofit co-founded by Paige Figi.
However, Charlotte tested negative for the disease, the Figi’s explained.
UPDATE FROM PAIGE:Our family is grateful for the outpouring of love while we mourn the loss of our Charlotte….
A series of posts on social media confirms that the Figi family experienced symptoms of what was most likely the novel coronavirus. They were unable to get tested, and sent home to quarantine.
But, Charlotte’s symptoms soon worsened. She was admitted to the PICU, and tested for COVID-19 on April 3rd. Results were negative.
Doctors released her on April 5th. Her symptoms seemed to improve. However, “Charlotte had a seizure in the early morning on April 7th, resulting in respiratory failure and cardiac arrest,” according to the post, “[…] 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.”
The Colorado Sun reports that, “If verified by public health officials, that would make Charlotte the youngest victim of the pandemic in Colorado so far.”
“The Girl Who is Changing Medical Marijuana Laws Across America”
Charlotte first made headlines in 2013 after her story appeared on the CNN documentary, Weed, featuring Dr. Sunjay Gupta.
Charlotte suffered from Dravet syndrome, a rare, severe form of epilepsy. “She started having seizures soon after birth,” wrote Gupta in his essay, Why I Changed My Mind on Weed. “By age 3, she was having 300 a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to two or three per month.”
The Figi’s partnered with fellow Colorado residents, the Stanley brothers, a group of siblings growing a low-THC, high-CBD strain. The strain proved particularly effective at lowering Charlotte’s seizures. The brothers later named it Charlotte’s Web in her honor.
Her story gained worldwide attention. As a result, it changed many people’s opinion of medical cannabis—including Dr. Gupta’s.
Today, it’s used as medicine by countless patients suffering from epilepsy, and conditions ranging from fibromyalgia to bowel disease.
In 2014, the International Business Times dubbed Charlotte, “the Girl Who is Changing Medical Marijuana Laws Across America.” IBT reported that her case catalyzed, “the legalization of medical marijuana in states across the U.S.”
That year, for example, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 1030, which legalized the use of Charlotte’s Web for a list of conditions including Dravet Syndrome and cancer.
Forever our Hero
Charlotte’s story was foundational to Jade Proudman, founder of Savage Cabbage, a U.K. based retailer of Charlotte’s Web hemp products.
Proudman suffers from fibromyalgia and spinal myoclonus epilepsy. After watching the documentary, Weed, she tried CBD. Within 48 hours, she was morphine free. She no longer needs pharmaceuticals, and now exclusively uses CBD in addition to vitamins.
Proudman has since dedicated her life to advocating for the research, education and access of medical cannabis. She established Savage Cabbage in 2016, which reaches patients in more than 60 different countries.
“Charlotte will always be my hero,” Proudman tells the Emerald. “Her legacy will live forever. The little girl changed the world, and the worlds of many millions of families, including my own.”
In a statement from the Stanley brothers, they describe the 13-year old as, “10 feet tall and carried the world on her shoulders.”
“Her legacy lives in the garden, in the blooming of ideas, in the fragrance of compassion, in the greenery of nurturing us to be better humans in all ways, always. What began as her story, became the shared story of hundreds of thousands, and the inspiration of many millions more in the journey of their betterment. Charlotte was and will be, the heartbeat of our passion, and the conviction that the dignity and health of a human being is their right.”