WASHINGTON (Gray DC, WHSV) — A controversial treatment for children with severe epilepsy could become legal nationwide.
The treatment uses oil derived from Marijuana. While the treatment is legal in 29 states across the country, the treatment is a challenge for many to access.
Charlotte Figi, 10, is a happy and healthy third-grader from Colorado Springs. It's a sight, mother, Paige Figi says she thought she'd never witness. Five and a half years ago, she was preparing to say goodbye.
"We thought she had a couple of weeks or a couple of months left to live," Figi said.
Charlotte started having epileptic seizures when she was just a baby. They grew more frequent, up to 1200 a month.
"She was completely dependent on life-support, oxygen, she couldn't walk or talk, or really do much of anything," Figi explained. "We were picking out her headstone, to be frank."
So, they tried something different. Cannabidiol or CBD oil, a chemical in the Marijuana plant that doesn't cause a high. Figi says just a few drops, taken orally twice a day, made a dramatic difference.
"So we gave it a try and her seizures stopped," Figi said.
The oil is now called Charlotte's Web, inspired by Charlotte's recovery.
"Today, she's walking, she's talking, she goes to school every day and she's living a life, I mean a very high quality life," Figi said.
Paige Figi and other parents are now pushing federal legislation that would make this treatment legal in all 50 states by excluding therapeutic hemp and CBD from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act.
In Virginia, a bill was just passed this year to allow pharmacies to distribute cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil to treat epilepsy, making the product easier for families in the Commonwealth to access.
West Virginia passed a bill in 2017 that lets doctors prescribe cannabis for a wide variety of conditions, including seizures, cancer, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and AIDS. That bill also licensed plant growers, processors and dispensaries for cannabis in pills, oils, topical gels, liquids and a form that can be vaporized, providing many more options than in Virginia.
"I'm pushing to make sure we have legal access to these oils," said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO).
Gardner is a co-sponsor of the bill. He says access to treatment should not be dependent on zip code.
"What we have right now is a series of laws, both federal and state entanglements that create a medical refugee situation where people can have access to a treatment in Colorado, but they don't in Kansas," Gardner said.
Figi says her family will continue to fight so others can have access to the treatment. She has created a nonprofit called the Coalition for Access Now, that has been working to change both federal and state laws.
"We are just trying to speak for these families, for these children, for these adults," Figi said. "We think it should be the right of everybody in America to have this."
Currently, there is no public opposition to this legislation. It has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.
WHSV has spoken with families in the Shenandoah Valley before whose children greatly benefit from medical marijuana, due to a variety of disease.