Meet Paige Figi, whose daughter helped change CNN doc Sanjay Gupta's mind about weed

At 6 p.m. Mountain Time on August 11, CNN will broadcast WEED, a documentary hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Previously a medical marijuana doubter, Gupta has done a 180, as witnessed by his just-published essay "Why I changed my mind on weed" -- and in it, he mentions Charlotte Figi, a Colorado child with a rare disorder who's made remarkable progress due to cannabis oil. Paige Figi, Charlotte's mom, who's featured along with her family in WEED, is pleased their story's going national -- and thrilled by Gupta's open-mindedness.

"The only reason I'm doing this is the chance of helping another child," Paige says.

As explained in a WEED preview, Charlotte, a twin born in 2006, was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, an uncommon, and serious, form of epilepsy in which a cellular mutation causes clusters of seizures, some of which last more than half an hour.

The ailment proved virtually untreatable, Paige says, and the impact of Dravet "covered all aspects of her life. Not just seizures but cognitive delays and feeding, sleeping and behavior issues -- everything."

Moreover, pharmaceuticals prescribed by a slew of doctors and other treatments didn't do much to help. "We might get a small break with a drug here or there," she allows, and a dietary regimen that required food to be weighed and measured to within a gram -- "I had to put together an Excel spreadsheet to figure out the ingredients" -- offered some relief of symptoms. But for the most part, Paige says, "medication was very detrimental to her."

Then, about a year and a half ago, Matt Figi, Charlotte's dad, who was serving in Afghanistan as a member of the Green Berets (he's still working in the country, but as a private contractor), suggested trying marijuana-related treatments.

After doing some research, the Figis decided to give cannabis oil a shot with help from the Realm of Caring Foundation, run by well-known Denver-area marijuana-scene figure Josh Stanley and his brothers. According to its website, the nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing "a better quality of life for residents of Colorado affected by cancer, MS, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, Parkinson's...through the use of medicated cannabis oil provided by Indispensary/Stanley family." Continue for more about the Figis, including a video preview of WEED and an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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