"Charlotte's Web" Medical Marijuana Bill Isn't Enough for Many Parents of Epileptics

Categories: Marijuana

Illustration by Mark Poutenis
Paula Crews, a suburban mom with short black hair, dumps a stick of butter into a double boiler and stirs in her secret ingredient. Her 24-year-old son, John, waits expectantly at the white Formica counter in their West Broward kitchen, watching while his mom mixes the butter into a pot of melted chocolate. Finally, she pours the candy into a rectangular mold and puts it in the fridge to cool.

A few minutes later, John pops a piece of his mother's creation into his scruffy face. In about a half-hour, the frat-boy archetype in a Guy Harvey T-shirt will be comfortably numb from the marijuana baked inside the homemade candy bar.

"And that's how you make chocolate with canna-butter," Crews concludes proudly. "That's my son's medicine."

Like parents of other epileptics, Crews was hopeful last month when Gov. Rick Scott signed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, a bill that makes a mild strain of weed available to medically suitable patients like John. But many of the Republicans who supported the measure now admit they hope the law helps stall a full medical pot reform initiative on this November's ballot.

"Our mission was to provide just enough to let the sick people in Florida have access to a noneuphoric brand of medicine," says Sen. Aaron Bean, one of the bill's coauthors. "I absolutely do not support full legalization because it can widely be subject to abuse. We passed a bill that's tightly written -- a baby step."

Crews, who asked New Times to change her family members' names because of the legal risk, believes the low-THC strain allowed by the bill won't be potent enough to make a difference for her son, who has subclinical seizure disorder. She's far from alone. An estimated 125,000 children in Florida suffer from severe epilepsy, and according to Crews and some experts, many kids might have conditions too serious to treat with the "Charlotte's Web" strain that's now legal in Florida.

The story of the Crewses, who have set up a veritable weed bakery in their kitchen, opens a window into how some parents must evade the law to keep their children healthy. "I realize I'm already risking my home and everything I've worked my entire life for," Paula Crews says. "But we have literally no other options."

Marijuana entered the doctor's office in 1992, when California activists successfully pushed for reform. Since then, 23 other states have followed suit, many experimenting with different models. In the Golden State, for instance, just about anyone with back pain can walk into a head shop and walk out with weed. In New Mexico, there are only three approved dispensaries, so medical pot is nearly impossible to get. Most recently, New York passed a reform law with one caveat: The medicine can't be smoked.

But a unique debate is taking place in Florida: A middle ground has been forged between all-out medical legalization and prohibition. It's centered on "Charlotte's Web," which has become a catch-all term for low-THC weed.

The six brothers in Colorado kicked off the idea in 2011 when they crossbred marijuana and hemp. The strain wouldn't get people high but would deliver some of the medical benefits of pot. In 2013, a Coloradoan named Paige Figi enlisted the Stanleys to help her daughter Charlotte. The 7-year-old was experiencing 300 grand mal seizures a month, and doctors recommended placing her in a medically induced coma. Instead, Figi used a low-THC oil created by the brothers.

In Weed, a CNN documentary that aired in January, Figi touted how the drug helped her daughter become active and vivacious. Her seizures dropped dramatically. And after the two-part series hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta aired, Charlotte Figi became the first poster child for low-THC medical pot.

Her story caught fire in South Florida this February when parents like Jacel Degadillo from South Miami and Seth Hyman from Weston lobbied to allow a similar strain in Florida. Three Republican lawmakers introduced a bill allowing pot modeled after the Stanley brothers' formula, with more than 10 percent cannabidiol, which can reduce seizures, but with only 0.8 percent of the THC that gets people stoned. The bill passed the Senate 30-9, with Gov. Scott signing it into law June 6. Beginning next January, five dispensaries will be allowed to sell oil made from the medicinal hemp.

If anyone should have been celebrating the law, it was the Crewses, whose story closely mirrors that of the Figis.

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There are over 60 known cannabinoids in cannabis and our Republican politicians believe CBD is all the public needs. Do you trust the government to decide on your health?


There is simply no reason to restrict medicine choices between a doctor and a patient. 


Imagine a world in which Wine is legal....  as long as it is Wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes... Grown only in a greenhouse...  using only filtered water, from artesian wells... Drilled to a depth of 300, to 352 feet....  with a pH of 7.0000 to 7.0019... on RootStock imported between the years 1972 and 1974.... from the Rhone Valley... brought to the University of California at Davis labs in Louisiana Cypress shipping containers... on TWA Cargo Planes... Flown at a maximum altitude of 29000 feet... With a cargo hold pressure altitude of not greater than 9987 feet... in cultivar studies conducted by professor Blake Rogers, between the years 1973, and 1976, with a grant from The Susan Longnecker Foundation.

knowa1 topcommenter

When you look at how our government has lied to us and the world its not just immoral but treason   Vote Yes On 2  if for any thing its now about patriotism.

hempstaff topcommenter

Why do we restirct Doctors from having ALL available medicine?  Makes no sense!

Amendment 2 is a win-win for Florida. Let the Doctors have all medicine available to them, and in the meantime create tax revenue and jobs for Florida!

Vote YES on #2! Looking to start working in the Medical Cannabis Industry in Florida? HempStaff can help you get in the door after Amendment #2 passes!


the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

1000s of my friends and family have grown 30-99 plants for 20 years, thanks for keeping prices high and NORCAL wealthy...#1 crop in cali = $15 Billion Untaxed...

"any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death" - cali secret 420

from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

20 years behind us southern states and NEW YORK (CBD = Can't Be Done), sad and scary....nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states and more blacks are in prison then were slaves before the civil war...even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice...no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol...not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

Deaths by Alcohol: Millions
Deaths by Tobacco: Millions

Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade

Deaths by Guns: Millions

Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions

Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever...they are killing my American family while denying freedom

love and freedom forever



@sweetcookies3333 It only takes one or two over-the-top assertions to negate the validity of the rest of a comment.  In this case everything is overblown. 

A reality check is in order here, so let's google some CDC facts.

"Deaths by Alcohol: Millions" Actual - 26,654 (2001 numbers from the CDC)

"Deaths by Tobacco: Millions" Actual - 480,000

"Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade" - actaul about 37,000 The CDC says, "in 2011, 33,071 (80%) of the 41,340 drug overdose deaths in the United States were unintentional, 5,298 (12.8%) were of suicidal intent, 80 (0.2%) were homicides, and 2,891 (7%) were of undetermined intent."

"Deaths by Guns: Millions" Actual - 11,000 for all of the USA (in 2011)

"Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions" Actual - 3,000

I'm afraid you will not be a good spokesperson for getting the Amendment 2 passed this November.  I, on the other hand am looking forward to a birthday present in the form of relief for my wife when Charlotte's Web will be available in January.

My wife has MS and is in constant pain. MM promises to alleviate some of that pain and I'm looking forward to her having a better quality of life.

Medical marijuana is a good thing, as long as it's not abused.  Of course no drug or anything else for that matter can be completely controlled, so the best answer to minimize the ability to abuse it.

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