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Most people don’t understand Tourette’s syndrome. If they’ve heard of it, they often think it means I swear like a sailor. While that’s true for some people, my Tourette’s causes my body to make movements and sounds beyond my control. The best way for me to regulate this is cannabis.

Since my freshman year of high school in Santa Monica, California, I started making a loud clicking sound with my throat. It’s brought on with a sudden feeling like my throat is tightening. This sound can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, and is often painful and makes it difficult for me to breathe. Soon after these episodes started, I started throwing my neck side-to-side and spasms would jerk my body around. The combination of these sounds and movements ultimately lead to my Tourette’s diagnosis.

People would notice me squirming in my seat or bending to one side while walking, and I developed chronic pain in my muscles and joints. I tried targeting both the root of the problem and its side effects using various medications and treatments including hypnotherapy (I’m from Los Angeles after all), biofeedback and physical therapy, but nothing seemed to work.

During my senior year of high school, California voted to legalize recreational cannabis. Medicinal cannabis had been legal for a decade, but the move to open that to recreational pot spurred an interesting conversation. A close friend of mine who also had Tourette’s mentioned she was getting a medical card for cannabis. I researched and proposed the same idea to my parents, who were not so receptive. They wanted to continue more traditional treatments, but I was feeling desperate. I couldn’t take the pain any longer and once I turned 18, I knew I had to give it a try.

The main type of marijuana that Bina uses is Indica. This particular plant helps to relax muscles, decrease pain and help with anxiety.
The main type of marijuana that Bina uses is Indica. This particular plant helps to relax muscles, decrease pain and help with anxiety.

I had zero prior experience with cannabis. I had no clue what I was doing and didn’t realize there was such a wide variety. A simple Google search of “where to get a med card” led me to a provider. The process was quick and easy, and once I described my condition and symptoms the doctor recommended I try indica, a cannabis species known for its calming qualities. I had a prescription in hand within a matter of minutes.

Glancing at a list of nearby dispensaries posted on the doctor’s office wall, I picked one totally at random — Green Dot — that was only a couple blocks away. Once I got there, I immediately forgot everything the doctor had said to me just a few minutes prior. I’m pretty sure I asked for an “indigo” rather than indica. Luckily, the budtenders were super helpful and directed me to what I needed. It’s still my favorite dispensary and the only one I frequent when I’m home. The budtenders know me and I appreciate that.

For the past two years, smoking, vaping and consuming cannabis has helped my body relax. The THC provides a body high that subdues existing pain and also lessens my spasms. Cannabis has also helped manage my mental health, including anxiety and embarrassment byproducts of my condition. Because I don’t look disabled, I often have difficulty asking for help or admitting that I can’t do certain activities. Since I’ve started using cannabis, my confidence has increased. I’m able to do more when I’m less worried about managing my pain, and it allows me to have better interactions with my peers.

Heading across the country to attend Syracuse University proved to be challenging in some respects. Even though New York is a medically legal state, the policies and practices are different than those in California. I wasn’t sure I would be able to get what I needed and found out quickly that dispensaries in Syracuse had limited products. So my best option was to bring my cannabis from home, which meant flying with enough to get me through a stretch of the semester until I went home for break. Thankfully, LAX permits traveling with cannabis but flying with nearly four ounces each trip east was still nerve-wracking.

Somewhere Bina feels most relaxed is her bedroom, which is covered in art by Shai Hendrix, one of her favorite artists. Bina describes it as a place that gives her “energy and happiness”, which are especially helpful on more stressful days.
Somewhere Bina feels most relaxed is her bedroom, which is covered in art by Shai Hendrix, one of her favorite artists. Bina describes it as a place that gives her “energy and happiness”, which are especially helpful on more stressful days.

At the start of my freshman year in Shaw Hall, we received the typical spiel about not drinking alcohol or consuming drugs in our rooms. I didn’t want to be scared to take my medication so I was open about my situation with my resident advisor. It went up the chain to the resident director and apparently this was new territory as she said she’d never dealt with something like this before. At one point they suggested I would need to live off campus if I wanted to consume cannabis in the dorms. I made my case that I needed medical cannabis to treat a disability and wasn’t in a position to move farther from campus, so I was able to stay in my residence hall.

There was another instance where a Public Safety officer tried to confiscate my medication but relented after I provided my prescription. I’m not sure what other issues may arise during the remainder of my college years, but these encounters can be stressful especially when I feel the need to explain my situation to others.

If New York were to legalize cannabis it would make life significantly easier for individuals like me, especially for having access to the care we need. I have spent hours researching which strains best fit my needs and I carefully weigh every pro and con. Often I have found that these strains aren’t available for purchase between the three Syracuse area dispensaries. Dispensaries in New York are not permitted to sell cannabis flower so only topicals, tinctures, edibles and vapes are available.

The legalization of recreational cannabis use should open more windows for medical patients. It would give access to a wider array of products and ensure we can find what’s best for us in a way that’s safe and reliable. I only hope that I will get to see this become a reality during my remaining time at SU.

Avatar for Candice Bina

is a Television, Radio & Film sophomore and contributor to The NewsHouse.

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Avatar for Candice Bina

is a Newhouse School photo major and contributor to The NewsHouse.