More and more parents are bringing their sick children to Colorado for treatment with medical marijuana, with the state reporting a recent surge in the number of kids registered as MMJ patients.
Earlier this year the number of minors on the list of registered patients in Colorado almost doubled to 60. Then in September, the rolls added another 30 patients. As of the end of 2013, there were 90 children registered to receive medical cannabis in the state.
The most visible explanation for the increase is something called “Charlotte’s Web,” a special strain of pot used mostly to treat severe forms of epilepsy in children. The strain is high in cannabidiol, or CBD, and low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. CBD is thought to quiet overactivity in the brain that causes seizures, and THC is the chemical that gets weed smokers high.
Charlotte’s Web, in other words, treats severe epilepsy without getting children stoned.
The strain was named after Charlotte Figi, a young girl who suffers from Dravet syndrome, a seizure disorder. Charlotte suffered 300 seizures a day and was near death until her parents began treating her with an extract from the high-CBD strain. She now experiences almost none.
Charlotte, like many other children treated with her strain, receives it from the six Stanley brothers, a group of pioneer cultivators and providers who all but give away their product to needy families. They operate out of Colorado Springs and have become something of a Mecca for desperate families.
Charlotte’s story received national attention earlier this year when CNN aired a story about her recovery and the benefits of medical weed. Since then, articles have been popping up repeatedly in the national media about families fighting to obtain access to the same medication for their kids – including many packing up and moving to Colorado.
In New Jersey, the parents of young Vivian Wilson fought a successful political battle to get MMJ for their daughter. Unfortunately, they’re still fighting to get the strain they need, and are considering a move to Colorado themselves. They’ll be in good company if they go.
“I put what fit in my car and drove out here,” said Marisa Kiser. Her 19-month-old son, Ezra, has suffered from seizures almost since birth.
About 100 families have relocated from other parts of the country to obtain Charlotte’s Web for their kids, according to The New York Times. Though medicinal pot has been around a long time, evidence of its impact on childhood epilepsy is new.
Indeed, there isn’t much of it. All parents have to go on are the anecdotes of other families because the federal government so restricts the study of pot there’s little research into whether it can help prevent seizures.
But considering what their children have been through – and the likelihood their diseases could kill them – these parents have all the proof they need.
Heather Jackson, whose son, Zaki, once experienced 200 seizures a day, said he hasn’t had one in 14 months. He’ll require medical care, probably for the rest of his life, but the improvement has been stunning, she told the Times.
“It’s really incredible,” Jackson said. “For whatever reason, this has put his syndrome into remission.”