Charlotte's Web medical cannabis soon to be widely available to Colorado children

Founding brothers expanding operations

DENVER - It's a strain of cannabis thousands are waiting to buy for their children, in hopes it will heal them. Those producing "Charlotte's Web" say the wait will soon be over for nearly a thousand Coloradans.

Some children battling epilepsy have seen a drastic turnaround and reduction of seizures after using Charlotte's Web, an oil made from marijuana plants very low in THC and high in a chemical called cannabidiol, or CBD.

7NEWS got an exclusive tour of the new facility in eastern Colorado where the five brothers who pioneered the medicine have recently expanded their growing operation. Because Charlotte's Web is less than .03 percent THC, they're now able to classify the plants with the state as hemp instead of medical marijuana and grow at a much larger scale. It also opens up the possibility of exporting Charlotte's Web.

"This will be the future of Charlotte's Web," said Jared Stanley. "Same plant, same quality control, same medicine."

Stanley and his brothers haven't been able to grow their plants quickly enough.

"Our national and international wait list climbs by 100, 200 every day," he said.  "It's currently around 7,000 to 8,000."

There are currently about 1,000 Coloradans on that list and Stanley said the new facility should get Charlotte's Web to those families by the fall. The hope is that growing the medicine as hemp will eventually take care of the entire waiting list.

7NEWS checked in with the medicine's first patient and namesake, Charlotte Figi, a 7-year-old from Black Forest whose mother says she was close to death due to Dravet Syndrome, a devastating form of pediatric epilepsy.

"We had reached the end of the line for medical options," said Paige Figi.  "The quality of life was none. I mean, we were at the point that we were hoping she would die peacefully in her sleep because it was so much suffering. She wasn't there. Charlotte wasn't there anymore."

Figi's husband had heard about the healing qualities of cannabidiol, and though Figi says she doubted it would work, she found the Stanley brothers, who were already experimenting with it.

Figi said at that time, more than two years ago, Charlotte couldn't walk, talk or eat, and was having about 1,200 seizures a month. She said after taking a few drops of Charlotte's Web every day, her daughter saw astounding improvement.

Today, she said Charlotte is down to four or fewer nocturnal seizures a month, and can walk, play and speak.

"It's been amazing to hear her talking and interacting with me," Figi said. "I can't even put into words what that means to me."

There have been many more success stories and about 250 families who've re-located to Colorado from other states, just so their kids can have access to the medicine.

Amy Brooks-Kayal, the chief of Pediatric Neurology at Children's Hospital Colorado, said Charlotte's Web comes up in conversations every day at her clinic, but she has big concerns about the lack of research.

"You really need good studies to understand what the risks associated might be-- either short-term risks in term of effects on liver or blood count, and longer term risks in terms of memory and learning, which we know marijuana products can affect," said Brooks-Kayal.

And she said there's another big issue, not mentioned in most media reports. She said of the 60 child patients at her hospital to try the medicine, only about a fourth have seen improvement.

"We've seen many children that haven't had any effect from Charlotte's Web or any other marijuana derivatives on their seizures. And some children have seen a worsening effect, severe enough to require them to be hospitalized," she said.

Stanley acknowledges the treatment doesn't work for everyone, but said those numbers are misleading because hospitals are more likely to see patients who don't have success.

"Is there more to know? Absolutely. Are a group of brothers growing it in a field going to figure it all out? No, but a community around that will," Stanley said. "Is it OK to know that there's something we don't quite understand about why this is working? I hope that's OK."

He said he believes he and his brothers have only scratched the surface of what marijuana can do to treat sickness, and showed 7News new strains they've started breeding.

"The results came back astounding," he said.

The long-term research on medical marijuana doctors and neurologists want to see doesn't exist primarily because marijuana has long been illegal at the federal level. But last week, Colorado legislators approved a bill that will provide up to $10 million to study the health impacts of medical cannabis. That money comes from fees and will eventually provide unprecedented research.

Parents and supporters of Charlotte's Web have created a non-profit called Realm of Caring to work with families. Click here for more information.

 

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