How many parents would give their children marijuana? What if the child’s heart has stopped multiple times since the age of two?
That was the situation faced by Matt and Paige Figi. Their daughter, Charlotte Figi, was born in 2006. Although Charlotte appeared healthy at birth, she began having seizures when she was three months old. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, her body slumped, and she experienced muscle spasms. Doctors eventually they diagnosed her with Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy.
Simply identifying the condition did not cure the problem. From 2006 to 2012, her seizures grew worse. Charlotte’s first seizure lasted half an hour; subsequent seizures went for three to four hours each. They also increased in frequency: Charlotte had about 300 seizures a week. Several types of drugs were used to treat Charlotte’s condition, including experimental drugs not tested on humans, but to no avail. Between the epilepsy and the powerful drugs Charlotte received, her development was halted. She went from a bright toddler to a five-year old unable to talk, walk, or eat.
By 2013, the Figis had all but given up hope that their little girl would ever recover. Charlotte’s heart had stopped several times. They signed a do-not-resuscitate order and said their good-byes.
Then a miracle happened. Matt Figi, who had quit his job in the military to help care for his child, discovered online that medical marijuana could help those with Dravet Syndrome. Although the Figis had been opposed to medical marijuana (both of them had voted against the passage of Colorado’s medical marijuana in 2000), they decided to try it on their daughter.
Fortunately for Charlotte, Colorado is one of 21 jurisdictions which recognize medical marijuana. Most of these states have three requirements before a patient can use marijuana: First, the patient must have a serious medical condition. Second, they must have a physician’s approval. Third, they must have a medical marijuana card and/or be registered with the state as a medical marijuana user.
Matt and Paige didn’t let their daughter smoke marijuana. Instead, they extracted the oil from the plants and fed it to her along with food. The results were incredible. Charlotte’s seizures, which had occurred 300 times a week, now only happen about three to four times a week. She has regained her ability to talk, walk, and eat. Aside from a few seizures a week, Charlotte is now a normal and happy six-year old. From a medical standpoint, this is an extremely exciting case.
State Legislatures Should Make It Easier for Another Miracle to Happen
One fact stood out to me: Colorado required two doctors to sign off on medical marijuana for Charlotte. Given that Charlotte’s heart was frequently failing, time was of the essence. It seems reasonable to propose that states which recognize medical marijuana should lower the requirements for young children with life-threatening conditions.
Instead of requiring parents to frantically call each and every doctor in their state, states should amend their medical marijuana laws: children under the age of ten with life-threatening conditions only need a background check on their medical records before their caregivers can purchase or grow marijuana on their behalf. The caregivers should also have their criminal records checked. The state should conduct the background checks and the state should conduct the checks concurrently with the first purchase of marijuana and no more than two weeks after the first purchase.
How is my proposal different from requiring physicians to sign off on marijuana use? My proposal eliminates the waiting time for the patients and their parents. This limits marijuana consumption by children to those with life-threatening conditions. Simple back pain is not necessarily sufficient. Finally, it will not be easy for parents to fake their child’s illness in order to purchase marijuana for their own recreational use because hospital records must actually diagnose their child with a life-threatening condition.
The major opposition to children receiving marijuana is the unknown side effects. Critics claim that a child’s mental development may be adversely affected by marijuana. There are two problems with that argument. First, we’re talking about children with epilepsy, cancer, or AIDS. The alternative to marijuana may be death. Second, the drugs used to treat epilepsy, cancer, or AIDS often have side effects which are more extreme than slower mental development. When Charlotte was receiving drug treatment for her epilepsy, she had a major loss of bone marrow, a weaker immune system, and a strange craving for pine cones. Any side effects associated with marijuana couldn’t be any worse than these.