Letter to the Editor: Veteran shares thoughts about legalizing marijuana


Editor’s note: Michael Wirtschafter presented these comments concerning House Bill 1 to the House of Representatives’ Health & Human Development Committee on Jan. 25.

Hello and good day. Thank you to the House Health & Human Development Committee and Chairwoman (Melissa) Minor-Brown to allow me time to speak.

My name is Michael Wirtschafter. I am a 56-year-old Air Force veteran, a voter, a taxpayer and a medicinal cannabis consumer.

In 1988, I survived a helicopter crash during a military training exercise; in doing so, I severely damaged (my spine’s) L3, L4, L5 and my S1, leaving me with daily chronic pain. Between 1988 and 2008, I would undergo two major back operations, which both led to physical therapy and pills for pain management — every single one of them was opiate-based!

So, for years, there was this marathon between my pain management, the various prescribed medications and learning of every single side effect from these narcotics. You see, due to my family history — Mom had hypoglycemia, and Dad had diabetes, opposite ends of the sugar spectrums inside my blood — I would regularly get blood tests every 90-120 days, to keep my levels in check. These tests would also show me the damages that were occurring within my body due to the opiates.

Eventually, I would learn of cannabis’ effect on my pain management and how I could slowly wean myself off the opiates. Let me elaborate — with this plant, I was able to eliminate Darvon, Demerol, Vicodin, OxyContin, codeine, hydrocodone, Percocet and Suboxone, to name a few … all removed from my diet of taking pills … all because of a plant. I would turn to my (primary care provider) and show him the tests, saying, “The pills work, but you are ultimately killing me!” These opiates, overprescribed at one time, were damaging my liver, damaging my pancreas, damaging my kidneys. They were decreasing the white cell count in my blood, affecting bone marrow density … I don’t have deep pockets to replace an organ!

I am walking, talking proof that you can get off opiate-based medications with this plant and resume being productive at home, in (your) family, amongst society.

Research has shown that cannabis can be an exit strategy for those addicted to opiate-based medications; (it’s) peer-reviewed and published by the National Institutes of Health (and) identifies cannabis as a method of harm reduction for the opiate epidemic. It’s time to acknowledge the true gateway relationship between cannabis and other substances — for many of us, cannabis is a gateway to recovery and our salvation.

From the American Journal of Public Health: “Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and its use has resulted in a 0.7 death-per-month reduction in opioid-related deaths.”

On my closing note, I am an entrepreneur. I have two dreams, both (of) which can become reality with legalization — I want to build an edibles-manufacturing facility here in Delaware that can rival the West Coast. I want to create jobs, sustainable jobs, in a blossoming industry that will create additional revenue streams for our state and our people.

The other side of that dream: I want to live in a world where growing your own cannabis is as cool as brewing your own beer!

Michael Wirtschafter


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