When recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, the go-to joke for news anchors and pundits (after “munchies” references, of course) was that there would be a parade of stoners moving to the state. Little did anyone think that families with children suffering from conditions that result in crippling seizures would be part of that parade.
According to the Associated Press, “an influx of families with seizure-stricken children” are moving to Colorado in search of a specific strain of medical pot called “Charlotte’s Web.” The strain was named after Charlotte Figi, a girl whose quality of life drastically improved while taking the drug. When Charlotte was five years old, her doctors “were out of ideas.” Her mother sought out medical marijuana as a last resort.
THC, the psychoactive compound in pot, is known to make seizure conditions worse. However, another active chemical in the plant is CBD, which is known to lessen the likelihood of seizures. Charlotte's Web uses a strain of marijuana low in THC but high in CBD, developed by a family of growers. The CBD is extracted from the plant by a chemist, who used to work for Pfizer, and then sent to a third-party lab for purity testing.
Unlike other types of medical marijuana, such as those used to manage pain or increase appetite, this strain has no potential for abuse, since there is no THC present in the final product. However, many critics believe that the push for medical marijuana is simply a backdoor method of legalization.
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“When you talk about medical marijuana and you go to a research organization like a National Institutes of Health ... there is absolutely zero scientific support for smoking marijuana and believing that it has any successful impact on anything,” said Gen. Barry McCaffery, former drug czar for President Bill Clinton, last December while being interviewed at the First Annual Veteran Courts Convention in Washington, D.C.
Yet, in this case, no one is smoking anything, and it’s still illegal. Because of the black-market nature of this drug, desperate parents can find themselves susceptible to misinformation. One case reported by the AP involved parents who were told they could make the drug at home but were given dosage was incorrect, so their child’s seizures worsened.
Thus, parents are calling for states to make at least this low-THC, high-CBD strain legal and as carefully made as the kind which seemingly worked for Charlotte Figi. There have been no peer-reviewed studies as of yet, which could happen concurrently with legalization, but Charlotte's Web has given desperate parents a sliver of hope. In Florida, advocates have already began gathering signatures to put a medical marijuana referendum on this year’s ballot.