Hemp extract used to treat childhood epilepsy gaining momentum

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Photo: Hemp field from iStockA medical treatment derived from cannabis and manufactured in Colorado gained national attention last year in a CNN documentary. Now it's gaining approval in statehouses around the country.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta visited Colorado to learn about Charlotte's Web, a form of hemp oil being used to treat kids suffering from extreme seizure disorders. It is produced by a group of brothers who live outside Colorado Springs and started a nonprofit called Realm of Caring to promote the treatment. The namesake of the drug is Charlotte Figi, a young girl suffering from Dravet Syndrome. Her mother, Paige Figi, says she learned about cannabidiol from a parent in California. Figi says that since Charlotte started using it, she's gone from having more than 300 seizures a week to very few.

Charlotte's Web contains only a small amount of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. But the treatment worries Dr. Larry Wolk, a pediatrician and chief medical officer for Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment. Wolk says there's been no formal medical testing of Charlotte's Web and that parents and doctors are relying on annecdotal evidence. News reports, he says, may give the impression that thousands of families are moving to Colorado in haste to obtain the treatment for their children. About 300 families in Colorado are using drugs like Charlotte's Web, he says.

Wolk and Heather Jackson, executive director of Realm of Caring, talked with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about Charlotte's Web, the medical testing still needed on the drug and the wave of states legalizing cannabidiol as a treatment for children.