Stu Zakim is a one-man empire. His name rings bells wherever the topics are communications, media, publicity, and publishing. The founder of Bridge Strategic Communications, Zakim is a powerhouse whose work to alter the public perception of cannabis has caused ripples in the zeitgeist.

Stu Zakim, founder of Bridge Strategic Communications (C) Bridge Strategic Communications

Who Is Stu Zakim, Founder Of Bridge Strategic Communications?

“Educating people about the benefits of cannabis [has] been a thread through my entire career,” Zakim says. And what a career - from executive roles at Columbia and Universal Pictures’ publicity departments, where he worked on films including Cheech and Chong’s Nice Dreams and Things Are Tough All Over, Heavy Metal, and Half-Baked; to helming media relations strategies for Playboy and Rolling Stone; to serving as Vice President of Corporate Relations at Showtime when Weeds was at its height, and much more. His role in the film industry was his first job after graduating with a degree in PR from Boston University’s College of Communications, and he has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1995.

*Editor's Note: For more about Stu's Heavy Metal memories, click here.

But since 2013, the strategist has focused on his passion: bold, caring advocacy for the plant. His client roster features renowned, barrier-breaking brands like Happy Munkey, CryoCure, Berkshire Roots, and The Travel Agency. It’s no wonder he was a nominee for Public Relations Firm of the Year at the 2023 Emjay Awards.

Stu Zakim (right) with Paul McCartney at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Courtesy of Stu Zakim.
Stu Zakim with Happy Munkey's David Hernandez, Vladimir Bautista, and Ramon Reyes at the 2021 NYC Cannabis Parade and Rally, the first year that Senator Chuck Schumer (background) was a keynote speaker. Courtesy of Stu Zakim.

How Did Stu Zakim Create Milestone Moments In Cannabis PR?

Ahead of the curve, Zakim has sparked many watershed moments in cannabis history. With publishing colleague David Rheins, founder of the Marijuana Business Association (MJBA), he started bringing cannabis meetups to the East Coast, paving the way for later organizations like High NY and CannaGather. In 2018, when he was invited on CNN as a guest speaker, the media expert asked to discuss cannabis. Despite being told “We only cover politics,” his response shone a positive light on the plant.

“I said, ‘Let me tell you something, cannabis is ALL politics,’” he remembers. “I started giving them a history lesson, going back to Nixon [and] Schedule I… I said, ‘I believe cannabis voters are one of the larger voting blocs in the country, and if mobilized appropriately, could have a major influence on [elections].’ That started to penetrate, because I was on almost every show on [CNN and MSNBC], including a one-on-one with Don Lemon.”

He continues, “If you look at the clients I represent, a lot of them share the same ideas about cannabis culture, helping people, and educating them so that the prejudices and stigma can disappear. For people targeted by the War on Drugs, especially Blacks and Latinos, if they got busted even for a joint, they went to jail. If you didn’t have a green card, you got deported, which broke up families.”

Stu Zakim and Vladimir Bautista at the Choose Happy Forum at Columbia University, 2023. Courtesy of Stu Zakim.

How Did Stu Zakim Help Transform Happy Munkey's Brand?

By far, Zakim’s proudest work “ahead of the curve” has been with brands and organizations that carry a similar mission. He cites the transformation of Happy Munkey as one of his favorite success stories. Beginning as an illicit speakeasy pre-legalization, the Latino-owned company hosted popular events for diverse audiences. When Empire State NORML activist Doug Greene (introduced to Happy Munkey by Honeysuckle’s own Jaime Lubin) invited Governor Andrew Cuomo’s aides to observe an event, the moment became the catalyst for New York’s adult-use marketplace.

With Zakim’s help, Happy Munkey pivoted to a lifestyle brand in the wake of legalization and the Covid-19 pandemic. The publicist helped them coordinate “New York’s first legal pot party” on April 20, 2021 at a steakhouse opposite the New York Stock Exchange. Later, they would partner with cultural touchstones such as the Van Gogh exhibit, Museum of Sex, and finally the Choose Happy day of social justice programming at Columbia University.

Stu Zakim helps promote The Travel Agency on ABC News. Courtesy of Stu Zakim.

What Has Stu Zakim Done With The Travel Agency Cannabis Dispensary?

Zakim also applauds licensed retailer The Travel Agency for its achievements in the past year. Through his counsel, the retailer engaged in multiple community reinvestment campaigns, including impactful events with the LGBTQIA+ community, won 3 Clios, and served as the site of a memorable segment on The Daily Show with Sarah Silverman. 

Stu Zakim with Lin-Manuel Miranda. Courtesy of Stu Zakim.
Courtesy of Stu Zakim.

What's Next For Stu Zakim In Cannabis PR?

His next goal is to encourage more TV shows and films to incorporate scenes where people are offered cannabis as they would alcohol.

How does the one-man band do it all? He remains continually informed on all industry and cultural news, making himself an invaluable resource. But it really boils down to enthusiasm, he admits.

“My role isn’t just about generating media,” he notes. “It's also guiding the clients… Business owners may ask: ‘Why am I paying for PR?’ Well, you’re paying for this because it gets results; you're paying for my professionalism, contacts, credibility, and reputation. Public Relations isn’t a minor investment.”

For more about Stu Zakim, visit and follow @stuzakim on Instagram.

*A version of this article originally appeared in Honeysuckle's 18th print edition. Get your copy now at dispensaries nationwide, or click here to order and choose your element - Fire with Bun B or Ice with Queen P!

Special Thanks To Cannabis Business Sponsors

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Written By:

Veronica Castillo is known as the Traveling Cannabis Writer. She was a nomadic writer on the road covering all things cannabis/ hemp/ and overall plant medicines and recently came back home to Florida, making it her homebase once again. Her body of work can be found in multiple industry publications both digital and print where she provides cannabis industry and community insights from her 5 year journey around the country. She is a collaborator, connector, always seeking to bring to light the hidden gems in the plant space. You can follow her journey on Instagram: @vee_travelingvegcannawriter and/or LinkedIn: @Traveling Cannabis Writer  

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Featured image: Stu Zakim, founder of Bridge Strategic Communications, on MSNBC. Courtesy of Stu Zakim.