Higher Profile: Zoe Wilder, Publicist with a Higher Calling

Renaissance woman, publicist extraordinaire, and High Times alum Zoe Wilder talks about her career, her background, and her love for cannabis.
Higher Profile: Zoe Wilder, Publicist with a Higher Calling
Photo Credit: Harlee Case

Publicist, Zoe Wilder, loves the sound of the greeting “y’all”. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, southern charm is not lost on this beauty.

“The people are polite, the weather is nice, and the food is absolutely decadent,” she expounded. “Y’all is a perfectly intelligent contraction!”

Wilder moved to Virginia after high school, attending The College of William and Mary, with a focus on English literature, earning a Bachelor of Arts. From there she went directly to New York City, where she began her career in publishing and communications at the American Thoracic Society (ATS) in Manhattan, where she spent ten years honing her craft, assisting the Managing Editor and Director of Communications, working with the press.

“ATS is a prominent lung health association responsible for the publication of peer-reviewed medical journals covering the topic,” she explained. “In fact, the ATS published some of the first favorable studies on cannabis and lung health.”

During that time, Wilder said she began writing for High Times and other cannabis publications, as well as mainstream health publications.

While working at ATS, the ever goal-oriented Wilder earned a master’s degree in Social Work from Fordham University, studying harm reduction approaches for substance abuse.

“I was able to witness first-hand how cannabis can improve the quality of life in people who suffer from mental health and medical issues,” she said. “During that time, I counseled and empowered individuals from marginalized communities, created social programs for children, teens, and adults on the Autism Spectrum. I also was able to teach teens about important social and cultural issues.”

Day Job vs. Night Life

Wilder said the work was rewarding, but a bit dry, so she turned her Brooklyn loft into a performance space.

“My day job lacked some of the creativity I craved, so as a result, I spent time as an entrepreneur, producing cool art salon parties in my loft, choreographing performance art pieces for underground raves, reading original poetry at events around the city, and shadow dancing alongside my favorite DJs and bands.”

She also began interviewing indie artists for publications, modeling for photographers, promoting bands and coordinating street teams in the live music scene, starting a record label, and producing hundreds of weekly dance parties.

Modeling still continues with Wilder working with Harlee Case, Emily Eizen, and Kaitlin Parry, to name a few photographers; coming back full circle to the plant, incorporating cannabis in stunning artistic photo shoots.

Though the fun away from work was feeding her muse, she also understood that everything she did was also contributing to her skill set in communications and public relations, promoting artists she worked with on the Howard Stern Show, while booking performances at The Whitney Museum of American Art. She’s even helped clients land sponsorships and partnerships with American Apparel, Ace Hotels, New York Fashion Week and iHeartRadio, to name just a few of the more high-profile entities she’s worked with.

“The modeling began when I was a child, with consignment shop runway shows and photo shoots for catalogs for various companies, like Ferrari” she said. “It’s turned into a fun hobby that allows me to flex my creativity muscle.”

Childhood Advocacy

Her path was not happenstance, as Wilder’s childhood included enlightenment on the cannabis plant from her mother.

“My mother enjoyed cannabis openly and normalized the plant for me,” she shared. “I understood, from a very young age, that cannabis helped alleviate the stress of motherhood, working full-time, divorce. She never apologized or made excuses for imbibing. It was just part of her daily routine, and I never questioned her about it.”

This knowledge during elementary school came at the height of the failed War on Drugs in America, and the D.A.R.E. program, causing Wilder to become a young hallway vigilante.

“They plastered D.A.R.E. posters all over the hallways,” she said. “Knowing that cannabis is a pathway to wellness, these posters angered me. So, when no one was looking, I’d tear down the propaganda from the school’s walls and toss them in the garbage… save one. I kept a poster and hung it up in my college dorm room my freshman year – the art depicted purple, pink and red fractals alongside the D.A.R.E. logo – and, quite frankly, despite the lies it represented, it fit well with the rest of my trippy décor.”

The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program was founded in Los Angeles in 1983, as a partnering initiative with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles Police Department. Police officers are financially subsidized to come into the classroom and teach about drugs. The program is widely thought of as a failure, with many past students claiming they learned about drugs for the first time, said to enable the students to use them. Today, in legal states, cannabis has been taken off the list of substances discussed altogether.

Higher Profile: Zoe Wilder, Publicist with a Higher Calling
Photo Credit: Kaitlin Parry

Tripping & Defining Life Moments

By the mid-nineties, Wilder said she was hitting up 420 rallies in Piedmont Park with friends to show support for the movement.

“We’d stock up on the way, twist one up upon arrival, bop to reggae, and mingle amongst the trees with the backdrop of Atlanta shimmering in the background, dreaming of a day when we could set the plant free,” she mused.

Wilder’s first experience with smoking cannabis was on the Chattahoochee River with her boyfriend and his best friend.

“It was a summer day, the sun sparkled on the ripples of the river, and I was surrounded by friends,” she remembered fondly. “My friend encouraged me to take a hit off of a joint, so I did. What ensued after must have been hours of giggling, howling, rolling around on the banks of the river until we got hungry and went to the Waffle House for scattered and covered hash browns.”

But it was during college at the end of the 90s, when she traveled to Amsterdam during Spring Break, that she had one of her most memorable hallucinogenic experiences.

“As soon as we settled into the Flying Pig Hostel, we beelined it to the Magic Mushroom Gallery, where the nice woman behind the counter explained which buzzes different mushrooms produced. We listened closely – it was all news to me. After much deliberation, we decided on Copelandia cyanescens. She said, ‘They’re stronger than Psilocybe cubensis fungi, expressing more profound visuals with luminous, tropical colors.’ After all, we wanted to taste the rainbow.”

Another defining moment came after stocking up on “space cakes, space shakes, hash and grass,” she said of the hash and mushroom-induced vision.

“The following nine days were a blur of new sights, sounds and smells,” she continued. “We walked the Leidseplein Square in circles, sat on giant penis chairs in the Sex Museum, and reclined in plush red velvet seats at a local movie theater, drinking from icy glass bottles of Grolsch—while sneaking tokes of sativa—our eyeballs rolling around in our heads as we watched ‘Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.’”

Wilder said she found herself sitting in a coffee shop, her tummy fluttering, while wallpaper breathed and the scent of hash circled around her nostrils, then filled her lungs.

“I surveyed the scene in slow motion and when my head turned left, I noticed a bathroom with big metal chains hanging down where a door should be. Men stood there peeing, their asses grinning back at me,” she said of the hash-induced vision. “It was in that very instant I realized we’re all simply eating, breathing animals. I found supreme comfort in that knowledge—and still do. Immediately, I was one with the world—less alien, more connected.”

This story, Wilder said, is one of her favorites, as it was a defining moment in her life, bringing her directly down the path to where she is today, with no coincidences.

From Fun To Purpose

Today, Wilder said she still uses cannabis to inspire creativity, explore nature, enjoy music, and just have good old-fashioned fun. But the plant has also become a big part of the work she does today on a grand scale.

Ever humble, her firm has a policy of not name-dropping their clients. But if you visit the Last Prisoner Project website, alongside Damian Marley and Tahira Rehmatulla, one celebrity stands out, with the firm expertly guiding actor, Jim Belushi, through the complex network of the cannabis community and onto television, with his new Reality show on the Discovery Network, “Growing Belushi,” produced from his farm in Oregon.

“We work with celebrities, cultivators, and companies all across the supply chain” she shared. “Our clients are featured in many publications, from High Times to the New York Times. We also support non-profits in the sector, like Success Centers in the Bay Area, with a focus on inclusivity in the space for People of Color, as well as artists in the LGBTQ+ community.” 

To give back, Wilder sits on the Advisory Board of, with her firm also supporting, the Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit set up to assist in the efforts of releasing cannabis prisoners with unreasonably long sentences.

“It’s important that prohibitionists begin to understand what a wonderfully natural and powerful plant cannabis is,” Wilder concluded. “It has incredible health benefits, and that’s the real reason we’re seeing so much support for it now. It’s helping people live better lives. There are naysayers, I get it. People have been scared into believing it’s a gateway drug, but much of it is nonsense. The best antidote to fear is science, and it’s out there—the research is real. It’s simply time for the politics of prohibition to evolve.”

  1. Very interesting and informative article. Zoe’s adventure does certainly qualify her to teach, advise and inform all people who have any questions or qualms about the benefits of cannibis and its many uses in our society today. Great article!

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