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Medical Marijuana: The Last Hope for Sick Children

Desperate for help, families take extraordinary steps to help children wracked with seizures.

Meet Sydni continued...

"She's just starting to shine through."

The YouTube video was only the beginning. Families like Figi's began telling their stories in the media, including a CNN report featuring Charlotte, in which longtime medical marijuana opponent Dr. Sanjay Gupta publicly changed his mind.

Interest in Charlotte's Web has been so strong that Figi and Heather Jackson, Zaki's mother, started the Realm of Caring, a nonprofit organization to ease access to the drug for parents and help them get established in Colorado.

Stanley, the Colorado grower, is providing Charlotte's Web to 100 children, with another 300 on a waiting list, from all over the U.S. and other countries.

"It works, and now we have all these people moving here, refugees," Figi says. Parents say there are few side effects, except for some initial sleepiness in their children. Some also have a better appetite.

Says Stanley, "It's obvious there's something to this. The next step is beginning to understand that, so that potentially we can maybe make even better medications from it and with it. There's something happening that the scientific and medical community needs to dig into and understand."

Doctors See the Need

When Margaret Gedde, MD, PhD, first met Charlotte, she was hesitant about prescribing marijuana for such a young child.

One of a handful of doctors in Colorado who work exclusively in medical marijuana referrals, she had never prescribed medical marijuana for such a young child. But she understood the family's desperation. And seizures are one of the conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed.

"There is enough of a track record with CBDs and other cannabis products regarding safety. I really felt very comfortable in the realm of working with substances that have been used for thousands of years and do have a large number of animal and laboratory studies done," Gedde says.

Charlotte's recovery has amazed Gedde as much as everyone else. Since CNN told Charlotte's story to the world, she has been seeing 30 children a month, two-thirds of them from out-of-state. She says seizures are reduced in 80% to 90% of kids.

"The CBD itself seems to be healing, and you can get off those other medications. You're stopping the seizures, so it's all very encouraging," she says.

What neither Gedde nor anyone else understands is why it controls seizures.

Because pot remains illegal under federal law, even in a state like Colorado where it is legal, no federally funded hospital or university will conduct research with it.

The lack of study concerns Edward Maa, MD, an epilepsy specialist in Denver. He's also a board member of the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado, which has publicly urged caution regarding CBD treatment.

"The influx of patients is unfortunately something that the system is not bearing very well and probably should be proceeded with caution if at all," he says. Maa is concerned about the effects on children of families uprooted or living apart and of parents stopping other medications too soon.

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