Erik Asher: From Disabled Veteran to Medical Marijuana Trailblazer

Erik Asher waiting outside Maitri’s Pittsburgh dispensary at the grand opening. Photo by Matt Dayak.

Erik Asher waiting outside Maitri’s Pittsburgh dispensary at the grand opening. Photo by Matt Dayak.

On Saturday, January 26, hours before the Maitri Medicinals grand opening in Pittsburgh, one passionate medical marijuana patient was determined to be the first through the dispensary’s doors. He arrived at Maitri hours before the ribbon was cut. He greeted Maitri CEO Corinne Ogrodnik and her team, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, and several fellow patients who had begun to line up. His energy and enthusiasm were contagious. A disabled veteran and passionate marijuana advocate, this is Erik Asher’s story.

Life after Desert Storm

When Erik got out of the US Army in 1992 after fighting in Desert Storm, he was experiencing a range of health challenges, including PTSD, depression and many physical ailments.  By 1994, he ended up homeless, and sought refuge in the old VA on Highland Drive, where they began treating him.

“I was on tons of pills—opiates, antidepressants, you name it. And yet I still felt terrible; nothing was improving.”

His health continued declining through the 90s until he started self-medicating with cannabis. At this point, he had moved to Florida, and it was there his real cannabis journey took off. He became an advocate, and even participated in Florida’s legalizing Amendment 2, their medical program.

A new beginning in Pennsylvania

Erik Asher and his father, J Asher. Both are disabled veterans and proud MMJ patients.

Erik Asher and his father, J Asher. Both are disabled veterans and proud MMJ patients.

In 2016, Erik returned to Pittsburgh, just in time for the state’s legalization of Act 16. J Asher, Erik’s father, was also a veteran, having served in the US Marine Corps in the 1960s. He and Erik shared many of the same symptoms. J inspired Erik to get his card, and overtime, Erik went from being on 10 different medications to just two.

“I haven’t had to take an opiate or anti-anxiety pill since becoming a medical marijuana patient. I can’t overstate how dramatically cannabis has improved my life.”

Erik eventually translated this passion into work. He began studying solventless extraction and discovered he had an aptitude for it.

“As a disabled vet I don’t work, but I don’t want to sit around doing nothing. Becoming a part of this program has honestly given me a new purpose. I love promoting the health benefits and freedoms it offers people.”

Erik says his favorite strains tend to be heavier indicas because of their effects on his arthritic pains and insomnia. He loves Afghan Double Chunk, Dark Blue Dream and many of the OG strains because of the pain relief they offer.  

Why Maitri?

Erik making the first ever purchase at Maitri’s Pittsburgh dispensary. Also pictured: Maitri Patient Advisor Robert Fazzolare.

Erik making the first ever purchase at Maitri’s Pittsburgh dispensary. Also pictured: Maitri Patient Advisor Robert Fazzolare.

Erik first heard about Maitri’s Uniontown location from a friend who had noticed the large flower selection on the menu.

“I went online to look at your menu and my jaw dropped. I couldn’t pass it up! On New Year’s Eve, I made the drive to Uniontown, and when I experienced the environment, between the staff and the design and the prices on the menu, I couldn’t believe it.

More than anything, it’s the amazing group of people working for you—in both locations—that set you apart. This is what I feel makes or breaks a dispensary: the staff. No one ever rushes me at Maitri. I always feel valued and important. This is what distinguishes Maitri the most in my eyes.”

Maitri thanks Erik and J for sharing their stories with our community. 

Learn more about Erik

Follow Erik on YouTube to learn more about his medical marijuana journey.

On Saturday, February 23, Erik is teaching a class on solventless extraction at the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Education Center at 2112 Penn Avenue. He will discuss solventless extraction methods with interested individuals and share his techniques for extracting the highest yield possible from approved Act 16 materials.