Zoe Wilder has lofty goals.
“I always wanted to change the world,” she says.
And as a cannabis-focused publicist, Wilder is convinced she is using her master’s degree in social work from Fordham University to help meet that goal.
“This is one of those rare spaces in the world where people are passionate about social justice,” says the Atlanta native, adding that she is excited to be part of an industry that “cares so much.”
Wilder sort of fell into her career in public relations, managing the media room and working on messaging for the American Thoracic Society after college, which published some of the first studies looking at cannabis and lung health, and then doing some promotion for bands in the New York City music scene. She eventually started her own label and took on even a larger role in marketing, but even then, she always kept her eye on the slowly developing cannabis industry.
While at Fordham, Wilder studied harm reduction strategies for drug abuse and witnessed firsthand how cannabis can improve the quality of life of individuals with medical and mental health issues, among her other work. The research stayed with her.
“As cannabis started being more acceptable, I started doing more in that world,” she says.
Wilder moved to Oregon in late 2013, worked with educators and advocates in the cannabis space and realized her PR skills were needed throughout the nascent industry. She says she loved her time in Portland, but by 2017, she had grown tired of the Pacific Northwest’s wet and gray winters and she moved her practice to Los Angeles, where she already had a growing roster of clients.
“It seemed like a really great fit,” she says of the Golden State’s sunshine and vast cannabis marketplace.
Wilder says her firm has between 15 and 30 clients at any given time, most of whom are in or “orbit” the cannabis space, including wellness businesses, CBD, psychedelics and even wine, tech and art. She says the next big push will be on federal legalization.
“There’s always something big around the corner,” Wilder says.
Wilder called 2020 a “really dynamic year” and says despite its craziness, her clients and the industry as a whole have not slowed down, but instead banded together even more. The industry’s sense of unity is one of Wilder’s favorite parts of working in cannabis, a space where she says she has always felt supported, both as an individual and in her larger goals of healing people and in equity.
“That community, I think, is what sets us apart from other fields,” she says.
She has also never lost sight of her initial goals of changing the world, choosing to work with “amazing people who are doing good” like the Success Centers in San Francisco, aimed at empowering marginalized communities, and the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit committed to “freeing every last prisoner of the unjust War on Drugs.”
“I can’t think of a better way to use the skills I’ve learned in life,” she says, reflecting on her social work degrees and the direction they ultimately took her in her hopes of changing the world. “This is the best thing I could possibly do to fulfill that goal.”