"I TURN GREEN INTO GOLD."
Rosin is produced when heat and pressure are applied to a bud. Unlike its counterpart concentrates, no chemicals are used in production, making it a cleaner way to consume cannabis. Erik Asher is an expert on pressing rosin. Through practice and mistakes, he's perfected his process and teaches others how it's done. Read a little bit about him below and check out his social media sites to see him pressing in action!
Who is Erik Asher?
Tucked away in a Penn Hills Apartment lives a man named Erik Asher. You may know him as @ashers_finest_rosin_412 on Instagram, or maybe you know him from his bold presence in the cannabis community of Pittsburgh. Regardless, this is a name you will continue to see grow in importance as Pennsylvania moves toward, and eventually into, legalization.
Erik was kind enough to have me over for an afternoon of medicating with Asher’s Finest Rosin (He offers his pressing talents for free to any medical patient with their own medicine). Between puffs and brief coughing spells, he told me about his life and how he came to be a cannabis user. With his many roads traveled, it was difficult deciding what to include and what to leave for another time. My hope is that you will understand the man behind the fight as more than a cannabis user. Instead, you will know him as a decorated veteran who gave his life to war and reclaimed it again with cannabis.
“In 1986 I turned 18 years old, I was in Escondido, California. I had just come out of two years at a residential program because I was a really, really bad kid. I got into all kinds of shit. So at 18 years old I found myself homeless, and quickly got into this program called the California Conservation Corps. It takes guys who are 18 to 24 and it teaches them skills, and you live and they pay for your housing- it’s kinda like Job Corps only based out of California.”
In the corps, Asher began fighting forest fires with the Escondido Fire Center. From there, he moved to the Placer Energy Center where he performed energy audits that helped states lower their usage. His last stop was at the Headquarters Construction Unit. He learned how to be an electrician and eventually, ran his own crew. After the two-year program ended, Asher was back on the street. He decided to take the four-day train ride to Pittsburgh so he could be close to his family.
Freshly returned from California, Asher struggled to find work as an electrician. Without a Union card, he was overlooked by potential employers. A friend from his youth had recently joined the Army and convinced him to speak with a recruiter. An unexpected turn for his long-hair-don’t-care attitude, he became a member of the Armed Forces. Already well-versed in complicated electrical language and procedures, he had the unique opportunity of bargaining for his future.
“So I talked to this recruiter here in Pittsburgh and he has me take the ASVAB* test and I got a really high score on it so he really wanted me in the Army, right? First thing I told him was ‘I wanna fly Apache helicopters’. Well, that would have been fine except for my eyesight not being 20/20...so I asked him ‘What’s the most technologically advanced weapons system the Army has’ and that happened to be at the time, the rocket launcher that I used during the war- Multiple Launch Rocket System.”
After negotiating an agreement that included a monetary bonus and the guarantee that he would never be stationed stateside, Asher was quickly sent to basic training. It was January of 1989. Not long after arriving, his commanding officers realized he had something special to offer. Accepting nothing less than perfection in himself, the young recruit excelled in every area. Top of his class, they sent him for further training. During this time, Asher took the Multiple Launch Rocket System Extension Course.
“”I came out of basic and AIT (Advanced Individual Training), which is the job they teach you to do, and I came out top of my class. So they kept me an extra month. Sent me to another class to learn how to be an electronics technician for that weapons system, right, gets you a little extra value. The reason that’s important is because when I got to Germany- on my 21st birthday- June 15th of ‘89 I landed in Germany. It was West Germany at the time...I get there and normally, you have to work in an ammo platoon driving ammo, driving rocket pods around on a truck before you ever get into a launcher. But because of that extra school they sent me to, they put me right into one. The problem was that I skipped over about 40 guys who had put in time and were waiting for that slot to open for them, so I wasn’t really well liked when I got over there. And the guy they assigned me to, this sergeant from Boston, he hated the fact that they put me on him, right, so he was trying to get me to quit. So he was a complete asshole, but drove me. You know nothing was ever good enough. I wasn’t fast enough, whatever. But what it ended up doing was getting me to be the best at what I do in the army.”
The Berlin Wall, constructed to separate East Germany from West Germany, was demolished as the Cold War ended. Having fought for the reunification, Asher was in the action as the Wall came down. Someone handed him a hammer and he knocked off a piece of concrete to never forget the events that took place. Having trained to fight against the Russians, his platoon was without an enemy. As they waited for new orders, things began heating up in the Gulf.
In August of 1990, Saddam Hussein had his troops invade and occupy Kuwait. Having large oil fields, the Iraqi dictator hoped to capture the country and in effect, gain control over the oil market. To Hussein’s surprise, the United States and the United Nations formed an alliance and blasted his army with everything they could. Asher’s platoon ran the most complex weapons system of the time and as such, were sent from Germany to help fight in the Gulf. They landed in Saudi Arabia on December 17th.
Their mission began in the staging area of King Khalid Military City where they joined other main divisions. They were deployed with the First Cavalry Division and carried out massive nightraids. As Hussein’s army retreated from Kuwait, they lit the oil fields on fire in order to cripple the country. By the third day of ground battle, Asher’s platoon was right in the middle of the fires. He credits this and nerve gas for the lung problems he faces as an adult. In addition, the army used vaccinations that have since been linked to several of the neurological problems he and so many struggle with today.
After eight months in the Gulf, Asher returned to Germany. Unable to pass his physical fitness test because of lung problems, he was honorably discharged and came back to Pittsburgh. It was October of 1991. In an effort to gain quick employment, he received a two year degree in business. Over the years, Asher ran several different hotels and worked many jobs but he was always bouncing from one to another.
“I have no filter and if I think somebody’s an asshole, I’ll tell them that to their face. Real, real bad with that...I just couldn’t seem to find where I fit, you know? Cause all I knew, all I ever wanted to do was what I was doing in the army, and I couldn’t do that anymore. So, between ‘91 and ‘94 I kind of spiraled out of control. I was doing a lot of drugs, I didn’t understand what I was trying to do with my life and by 1994, I was homeless.”
After a year on the streets, Asher tried to take his own life. He was admitted to the local VA and spent a year working on his mental and physical health. Though the medications he was taking helped bring him through his suicidal mentality, Asher felt numb. The mental health of veterans suffering with PTSD is a stagnant battle, fought only with pharmaceutical armies. He needed more. He wanted his life back on his own terms, not the pill-fueled numbness of the VA’s solution. This is when he began to medicate with cannabis.
It is here that we meet the Erik Asher of today: A decorated war hero, disabled Army veteran, proud cannabis user, and master-in-training rosin maker. A man who shows up in the face of discouragement, stronger with each bump in the road to legalization. Having the pleasure of speaking with him has been a confirmation of the transformative power of cannabis. I hope this very small window into Asher’s life encourages you to follow his story. -JW
*The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) measures a young adult’s strength and potential for success in military training (https://www.todaysmilitary.com/how-to-join/asvab-test)
The Cold War began in 1947 at the end of World War II and lasted until December 26th of 1991.
The Gulf War took place from August 2nd of 1990 to February 28th of 1991.