One of the most striking societal progressions we've seen in the 21st century is the changing attitude towards marijuana, a substance long vilified by the government and media, a time dubbed as Reefer Madness.
But recent news regarding marijuana has been largely auspicious, especially in regards to its numerous health benefits. CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has recanted his original stance on medical marijuana, and has been working on a documentary called "Weed" in which he hopes to set the record straight.
What's most impactful, however, is when we see firsthand how marijuana can treat an illness, and in the case of a five year old girl named Charlotte Figi from Colorado, save a life, as reported by CNN.
Matt and Paige Figi say that their daughter Charlotte began have intense, long-lasting seizures when she was just 3 months old.
Her blood tests and scans were normal, leaving the doctors utterly baffled by her condition, which was unusual in its severity. They told Matt and Paige that Charlotte would probably grow out of it, but the seizures continued.
By the age of 2, Charlotte's cognitive decline was noticeable, recalls Paige.
The Figis took her to Children's Hospital Colorado, where tests found that she was positive for the SCN1A gene mutation, a commonality in 80% of Dravet Syndrome cases.
For two years, they tried a ketogenic diet that's been used to treat epilepsy. The diet is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, forcing the body to make extra ketones, natural chemicals that suppress seizures. The diet helped control the seizures, but the side effects were far from nominal: bone loss, weakened immune system, and behavioral problems that included eating pine cones.
To make matters worse, the seizures returned two years into the diet.
When marijuana as a possible solution entered the picture, Charlotte had lost the ability to walk, talk, and eat. She was having 300 grand map seizures a week, her heart had stopped a number of times, and the hospital had reached the limit of what they could do.
Matt and Paige, who had previously voted against the legalization of medical marijuana, turned to it as the last viable option.
It was difficult for Paige and Matt to find a doctor to grant Charlotte a medical marijuana card, due to the negative effects that marijuana has been shown to have on early onset marijuana smokers.
After many rejections, they found Dr. Margaret Gedde and Alan Shackelford, who signed on, realizing that the potential risks of cannabis paled in comparison to what Charlotte was suffering through.
Charlotte started out on a small dose of extracted oil from a type of marijuana called R4, which is low in THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, and high in Cannabidiol, or CBD.
The seizures ceased for the next seven days.
They found the Stanley brothers, one of the Colorado's largest marijuana growers and dispensary owners, who had a large supply of marijuana that was high in CBD and low in THC that had little demand.
The brothers started the Realm of Caring Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides cannabis to adults and children suffering from a number of diseases that cannot afford the treatment on their own. They give the cannabis away for virtually nothing.
Josh Stanley stresses that this treatment does not get Charlotte high due to its low THC levels. Charlotte is given a dose of cannabis oil twice a day in her food. The strain that she uses has been named Charlotte's Web.
Now, Charlotte is 6, and experienced only two to three seizures a month, mostly in her sleep. She can do things she was incapable of doing before like walking, riding her bicycle, feeding herself, and talking.
For more details, read CNN's report on this incredible story here.
Image courtesy of CNN.