Earlier this month, Honeysuckle founder Ronit Pinto appeared on the Alchemy podcast by Fyllo to talk about our upcoming print edition with Wiz Khalifa and the evolution of cannabis media. Alchemy host Jeff Ragovin is the Chief Commercial Officer for Fyllo, an innovative cannabis compliance and marketing company leading the charge on the industry’s moves in data and all points of business. Throughout the interview, Jeff and Ronit harmonized on topics such as the need for greater inclusivity and representation in cannabis, breaking stigmas with pop culture, and how intersectional media can lead us into the future.

Listen to the Alchemy by Fyllo podcast interview here:

‎Alchemy Podcast: Ronit Pinto, Publisher & Founder, Honeysuckle Magazine on Apple Podcasts
‎Show Alchemy Podcast, Ep Ronit Pinto, Publisher & Founder, Honeysuckle Magazine - Jan 19, 2022

Honeysuckle Magazine’s Origins: Freedom and Cannabis

Ronit began by explaining Honeysuckle Magazine’s origins. As a journalist and filmmaker with a diverse body of work including credits from Allure, The Jerusalem Post, Clear Magazine, and the Scream and Transformers film series among others, Ronit sought to combine her passions into a platform that would emphasize freedom of expression and amplify marginalized voices.

“I started it in Detroit as… an answer to a lot of things,” she said. “I think [we] need more room in our society for creatives who don’t just want to be broke artists.”

She envisioned Honeysuckle Magazine as a print and digital outlet (check out the Honeysuckle podcast for more info) that would grant all people the opportunity to be action-oriented in sharing their experiences and solving crucial social issues. Describing Honeysuckle as an “intersectional publication,” Ronit spoke about the plan to bring themes like regenerative agriculture, climate justice and racial justice into the mainstream, using the lenses of pop culture and cannabis to spotlight these narratives.

Honeysuckle’s holistic approach to healing the world has been evident from its inception and at each major step of evolution along the way. Breaking stigmas not just around cannabis but for all forms of expression is important to Ronit. She mentioned that cannabis has helped open the conversation to greater change; Honeysuckle was one of the first cultural publications to cover Marijuana Business Daily’s MJBizCon in 2017, did a deep-dive investigation into hemp and regenerative agriculture just before the landmark 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law, and spearheaded the inaugural Times Square cannabis campaign for New Year’s Eve which had an indelible impact on industry marketing technique and New York advertising law.

Christie Hefner and Ronit Pinto in Las Vegas during MJ Unpacked (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Honeysuckle Magazine's Times Square Cannabis Campaign

As Ronit recalled, on December 31, 2018, Honeysuckle became the first media company in history to get cannabis brands on Times Square billboards. Initially approached to run a basic ad, she instead countered with the genius idea to spotlight cannabis companies in the world’s largest commercial center. The campaign came together in a flurry of excitement, encompassing fifteen brand partners from local and grassroots companies to publicly-traded entities. Elixinol, one of the major brands in the project, had tried to buy a Times Square billboard the year before, only to be rejected by cannabis-fearing billboard owners. With the success of Honeysuckle’s initiative, Elixinol’s flag flew high above New York City, alongside Nutrafuels, The WeedHead & Company, My Bud Vase, Curved Papers, and more.

The campaign was also a major step for equity representation in the cannabis space. Dasheeda Dawson, founder of The WeedHead & Company, was the first Black cannabis business owner to be featured on a Times Square billboard. Many of the partner brands involved were (and still are) women and BIPOC-owned, and the project itself seemed to open the floodgates for new avenues of advertising. 80-plus years of New York policy changed with the flicker of a screen.

“I don’t think, to be honest, it was fully legal what we did,” Ronit admitted, noting that it took “renegade thinking” to complete the campaign. But ever since her spark of inspiration, cannabis brands have appeared in coveted spots throughout New York. Honeysuckle’s own 2021 initiatives for Diversity in Cannabis with Lil Wayne’s GKUA Ultra Premium brand and Indigenous Peoples Day with the Shinnecock Nation’s Little Beach Harvest are just some of the projects putting the plant front and center in Times Square.

“From then on, I’ve been approached by the boards instead of the other way around,” Ronit stated.

“It makes you appreciate how the stigma is almost starting to dissipate,” Jeff Ragovin commented.

Wiz Khalifa (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc.

Inside Honeysuckle Magazine's Wiz Khalifa Issue

All this perfectly sets the stage for Honeysuckle’s forthcoming Wiz Khalifa issue. Themed around Black History Month and Women’s History Month, the new print edition explores history in the making as the iconic rapper is taking his cannabis brand Khalifa Kush (KK) more public than ever. Honeysuckle was there in the room when the multi-platinum-selling, GRAMMY and Golden Globe nominated Wiz Khalifa first laid his hands on his very own legal KK flower in California. A cover story photo shoot at the famous Voelker Studio in Los Angeles added some Hollywood glam to the whole affair, while Wiz sang and danced through a magical afternoon session. In an exclusive interview, he opened up to Honeysuckle about his surprise album Wiz Got Wings, made poignant statements about the need for Black entrepreneurs to enter the cannabis industry, and reflected on his own legacy in the pantheon of rap.

Honeysuckle also goes behind the scenes with the Khalifa Kush team, getting the inside scoop - at least as much as one can with that mysterious brand - on the California launch (initially exclusive to Cookies locations before a wider release) and how their approach to crafting products empowers every consumer to “smoke like Wiz.”

Cannabis and Football Legend Ricky Williams

Further coverage in Honeysuckle Magazine’s latest issue spotlights football legend Ricky Williams, the Heisman trophy winner whose journey with healing from trauma led him to create the cannabis brand Highsman. Once publicly shamed for his cannabis use when he played in the NFL, Williams is now one of the nation’s top cannabis entrepreneurs and advocates. But what he reveals to the Honeysuckle team goes beyond understanding the plant to understanding how humans can truly help each other heal from trauma. His spiritual quest and teachings will stay in readers’ hearts.

Queen Christie Hefner on the Healthcare Revolution

Meanwhile, the powerhouse Christie Hefner - former Playboy CEO, current environmental activist, healthcare revolutionary, women’s rights advocate and more - gives Honeysuckle an exclusive on her ventures into the cannabis industry and her greatest business lessons. It’s clear that she’s taken the activism set forth by her father, Playboy creator Hugh Hefner, to heart and fueled these birthrights with her own sense of action. From championing First Amendment rights to establishing new ways to turn the “sick care system” into a functioning and equitable healthcare system, Christie Hefner is a woman who uses her magic for good.

New York's Cannabis Program Puts Social Equity First

And of course, Honeysuckle always returns to its roots. Tremaine Wright, Chair of New York State’s Cannabis Control Board, enthuses about the Office of Cannabis Management’s plans to bring the Empire State legal. She speaks from the soul about how the state will support social equity, creating opportunities for communities impacted by the War on Drugs to heal, and allowing more New Yorkers to be employed within a thriving new industry. From her experience as a born-and-raised New Yorker, she discusses the trauma of being Black in the United States and how the cannabis program is working with state government for reformed approaches to law enforcement and criminal justice, education, and encouragement of economic development. It’s a new day in the Big Apple, and we’re glad to have Chair Wright at the helm.

What's Next for Honeysuckle and Cannabis Culture?

So with all this frenetic movement, what’s next for Honeysuckle? A lot, Ronit emphasized, because the media company is scaling digitally and in numerous other ways.

Though Honeysuckle never has just one kind of audience, Ronit did comment that “We want to hit mostly cannabis consumers, intersecting pop culture with cannabis… We can say the stigma’s erasing, but in some ways it’s not. There are still brands who don’t want anything to do with cannabis… [The goal is] normalizing it, whether it’s part of your everyday life or not, it’s part of urban culture, pop culture.” She pointed out how cannabis brands today seek to help consumers customize their experiences, many with low-dose, high-terpene products. From Honeysuckle’s vantage point: “We want to touch on the consumers but also combine it with fashion. Wouldn’t it be cool to see a Puma spread with cannabis?”

In the coming months, Honeysuckle - which has always had roots in music and Black culture - will work more with the hip hop community. (Stay tuned for some very high notes indeed!) Ronit hopes to combine this coverage with other causes dear to her, such as environmental conservation and wildlife aid, which have also been historically important verticals for the media company.

Celebrate Honeysuckle Magazine's Wiz Khalifa Issue Launch in NYC!

Most exciting in the immediate future? A pre-420 WeedBall on February 26th at New York’s House of X will celebrate the launch of the Wiz Khalifa issue. Featuring burlesque performer Mia the MVP (whose star turn in the Honeysuckle x Rebelle NEED WEED campaign is also in the new edition), this issue launch party has a Josephine Baker 1930s theme and a bevy of beautiful people dancing, delighting, and jazz-jiving that the end of Prohibition is nigh. With sexiness and cannabis together, this evening is a must for any thoughtful cannabis lover.

Get your tickets for Honeysuckle's Wiz Khalifa WeedBall here:

Come to the House of X at 215 Christie Street. For tickets: https://www.ticketfairy.com/event/la-revue-negre/

Many thanks to Jeff Ragovin and the Fyllo team for a spectacular day. Honeysuckle is in awe of the great minds in the cannabis space that keep this industry moving forward. Together we can heal the world.

Hear more stories on cannabis, culture, and intersectional themes on the Honeysuckle podcast!

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