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High Country: Remembering Charlotte Figi, a hero of the CBD movement

The 13-year-old namesake of Charlotte’s Web, the company known for an effective strain of medical marijuana to treat seizures, died on April 8.

Katie Shapiro
High Country

Charlotte Figi suffered her first seizure when she was three months old and on Wednesday, her mother Paige Figi’s Facebook page updated a previous post to announce Charlotte “is seizure free forever.” The 13-year-old was hospitalized earlier this month with pneumonia, which caused her seizures to return and resulted in respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. She died peacefully in her mother’s arms on April 8, 2020.

Diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that begins in infancy, her parents turned to medical marijuana as a last resort to help their daughter and started researching cannabidiol, or CBD.In 2012, they met a group of brothers in Colorado who were breeding a special strain of medical cannabis that later became classified as hemp because of its high CBD, low THC content. Using the oil extract from fully grown plants, Charlotte, then five, went from having a seizure every 30 minutes to not having one for seven days after starting the treatment. 

In 2014, the Stanley brothers founded a namesake company, Charlotte’s Web CBD, in her honor. But CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, from whom most of the country first heard the term CBD, who introduced us to Charlotte. Gupta’s 2013 interview with the family in the multi-part documentary special “Weed” (a follow-up is included in “Weed 5”) made Charlotte an overnight face and hero for the medical marijuana and CBD movement. After penning a 2009 op-ed titled “Why I Would Vote No On Pot” for Time in 2009, Gupta credits Charlotte for changing his mind on marijuana.  

“She made me realize that it would not just be a medical failing but a moral failing if this medicine was somehow withheld from people,” Gupta shares in a heart-wrenching tribute that aired on April 9.

The Stanley brothers (Joel, Jared, Jesse, Jon, Jordan, Josh and Austin) remember Charlotte via an official statement, a portion of which reads:

“Charlotte was ten feet tall and carried the world on her shoulders. Inspiring is a lacking word, as are courageous and vivacious and strong and beautiful. She was divine. She grew, cultivated by a community, protected by love, demanding that the world witness her suffering so that they might find a solution. She rose every day, awakening others with her courage, and with that smile that infected your spirit at the cellular level. Her story built communities, her need built hope, and her legacy will continue to build harmony. She was a light that lit the world.”

Charlotte’s death marks one of the darkest days for the cannabis community. Unable to find many more words of my own, I turned to 14 of the industry’s pioneers and leaders to share their tributes. 

We love you, Charlotte.

Ricardo Baca, CEO & Founder, Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency  

“In a modern era defined by our need to breathlessly grasp onto pre-existing beliefs, Charlotte Figi changed minds globally just by living her life—a life that was radically transformed by medical cannabis. Can you imagine your child having more than 300 grand mal seizures per week, each one potentially deadly, and then realizing that a plant you’d been taught to fear and loathe is the only medicine that offers any meaningful relief? Charlotte never asked to be a part of this conversation, but her life’s unexpected collision with the cannabis legalization movement inspired an immeasurable shift in public sentiment. Charlotte’s astonishing life story brought so much hope and change to patients across the globe—and it also legitimized medical marijuana and forced the world to pay attention. She will forever be remembered as a pioneer whose brave life rewrote the definition of medicine.” 

James Kennedy, Founder, Apothecanna

“Charlotte gave credibility to what the medical cannabis community was doing in Colorado at a very early and critical point. She added a face to the movement, she helped the community rally around a unified cause. Nobody could question that this plant was healing this little girl, the results were undeniable. It quieted the skeptics and encouraged the movement to fight harder and go bigger. Looking back at my past 10 years in the industry, I can say that her story impacted the trajectory of the cannabis industry more than any other event, and was truly the first step in cannabis being deemed essential.”

Martin A Lee, Director, Project CBD & Author, Smoke Signals

Charlotte Figi was a little girl who had a huge impact. If not for Charlotte, hemp might still be illegal to grow in the United States, and millions of people around the world who suffer from epilepsy might not have access to CBD—rich medicine to control their seizures. Her life story has had a catalytic impact by advancing our knowledge and use of a vital healing option.”

Morris Beegle, President & Co-Founder, WAFBA (We Are For Better Alternatives) 

“Although I never met Charlotte personally, she is without a doubt an undeniable spirit and catalyst for the entire CBD movement. She shined a light on the benefits cannabis can provide children with certain conditions, and ways in which modern medicine often doesn’t provide positive results. I am saddened to hear of her passing.”

Adam Levin, Executive Chairman, High Times 

“Charlotte Figi was an activist who forever changed the stigma associated with cannabis use. Putting a 13-year-old on the cover of High Times had never been done, but she was just as, if not more deserving than anyone who had previously graced our cover over the past 45 years of its cannabis legalization history.”  

Rick Batenburg III, CIO, Clear Cannabis Inc. & Cannabis Venture Capitalist

“To effect real change, a story must be personal. Before Charlotte was involved, before everyone understood her story, the cannabis plant was largely dismissed and misunderstood. When someone so young, innocent and vulnerable is able to live a real seizure-reduced life because of this plant, it could not be ignored by scientists and humanitarians alike. She lived a better life with cannabis, period. The grief over her passing has swept over the cannabis community like wildfire because she became more than a little girl, she became a beacon of hope to so many suffering that there was a chance they could stop suffering as well. Someone must rise to take responsibility to allow a message to be understood and absorbed. Charlotte is a symbol to so many about the legitimization of Cannabis as a medicine and she and her family will always be remembered for their courage.”

Sally Nichols, President of CBD, Bloom Farms

“We have a cultural divide to overcome, and Charlotte’s story did more than any amount of scientific study can to bridge the gap. She led the way on a new path for so many patients, helping to cut away resistance that others had tried for years to conquer. CBD as medicine is real. And for many, it’s the only option. Thank you Charlotte. Eternal gratitude to you and your family for their efforts to change thinking and provide new options. And please, please forgive the rest of America for moving so slow, too slow, for what you needed it, when you needed it. We love you.”

Andrew DeAngelo, Co-Founder, Harborside & Cannabis Industry Strategic Advisor

“The legacy of Charlotte will carry on, as she’s an icon of the cannabis community, and that status will only grow over time as we honor our pioneers and heroes. She touched and inspired so many of us to hold life precious and go the extra mile whenever we can to heal our kids. People like the Figi family, the Stanley brothers, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, were able to bring this kind of breakthrough to a much larger audience, building even more momentum for afflicted kids to get this medicine legally. It’s the epitome of a David versus Goliath tale, and, because of people like Charlotte and the Figi family, David won. We all won. Charlotte will forever be a symbol of heroism in the cannabis community and I’m proud to have her as one of the shining stars of our movement. I have a feeling her legacy is just getting started.” 

Grace Saari, Co-Founder, Svn Space

“Charlotte’s story inspires us all to continually seek better and more natural alternatives even when your path comes to a complete halt. From her parents’ unwavering dedication, love and persistence to seven brothers that listened, creating Charlotte’s Web CBD, ignited a movement to reverse decades of misinformation and redefine ‘plant medicine.’ May we all continually seek the truth, stop at nothing for our loved ones, see opportunity and rise to the occasion. Charlotte leaves a legacy that we will forever hold close to our hearts and we will continue our mission to stay connected and educate the masses on a plant that can feed you, house you, clothe you and heal you.”

Cortney Smith, CEO & Founder, DaVinci 

“It’s very rare that there is a singular person that can change the world’s outlook on something controversial. However, that’s just what this brave soul, Charlotte did. By showing the world her pain, she and her family normalized medical cannabis for adults and children. This acceptance changed legal statutes and allows companies, like ours, to legally be doing business without the constant fear of persecution. We can dream bigger because of her and will continue to honor her legacy.”

Chelsea Leyland, Cannabis Activist & Documentarian

“This little girl’s story changed the course of my life! She not only legitimized cannabis as a medicine, but touched the lives of so many who battle daily with this challenging condition known as epilepsy. Charlotte Figi began a movement, whilst teaching me that we as the individual hold an immense power and responsibility to show up and make a difference in this world.” 

Pelin Thorogood, President & Co-Founder, Wholistic Research & Education Foundation

“Movements start out with just a small group of people who believe passionately enough in a cause that they end up changing the culture. Charlotte Figi and her courageous family did just that for medical cannabis. Her authentic story inspired many, opening both the public’s and the medical community’s eyes into the possibility that this ancient plant could indeed deliver powerful therapeutic benefits. Our foundation’s efforts to explore how cannabis delivers its broad health benefits is a tribute to trailblazers like Charlotte who’ve changed perceptions globally and empowered so many patients with access to life changing medicine in the process.”

Dennis Hunter, Co-Founder, Cannacraft

“Charlotte Figi lived a life of bravery and strength. Though her time on earth was far too short, her legacy will live on through the countless lives she impacted. Charlotte shared the healing properties of CBD with millions of people all over the world, which led to amazing advancements in epilepsy treatment. Our community is forever grateful to Charlotte Figi and her family and we will continue to share her story as far and wide as possible.”

Los Arias, COO & Co-Founder, Green Horizon&Principal, RiverRock Colorado

“Charlotte Figi is the first pioneer. Her journey exemplifies the best of what is possible with plant medicine. She now passes the torch for us to carry forth. With continued regulatory stewardship, plant medicine will ultimately heal the world. All of my portfolio companies respect the plant to the deepest, and advocate for regulated access for all humankind. Thank you, Charlotte.”

Paige Figi and Heather Jackson, the first two success stories using Charlotte’s Web, along with Joel Stanley, founded the non-profit organization Realm of Caring in 2012. To support Charlotte’s legacy and future families seeking medical cannabis information and treatment options, visit realmofcaring.org.


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