Chicago-based media entrepreneur, food expert and culinary cannabis expert Joline Rivera just launched Kitchen Toke Hemp Honey, a sweet way to feed endocannabinoid systems made entirely from bees.

In this Grown In Q&A, Rivera discusses the process of building a retail brand on top of a media company, the patented BeeFuse Technology used to infuse CBD into honey, and the practice of ingesting plants rather than pharmaceuticals to relieve pain and promote healthy lifestyles. 

Grown In: Your professional and entrepreneurial journey includes launching media products for food companies and pioneering an information source for cannabis cuisine. So how and why did you get involved in organically manufacturing a CBD product “mixed by bees”?

Joline Rivera: I’m glad you asked, this is a really good question and an important one, so much so I put the full story on why I chose to team up with Ilan Ben Simon in our Summer issue. For anyone following along, I’ve been saying repeatedly for the last three years of Kitchen Toke I truly believe cannabis is food and food is medicine. When I learned about BeeFuse Technology I had to know more. We spent months talking while Ilan was in Israel. I was skeptical at first, but when I finally tried the honey that was it for me.

I have some bad spinal injuries to my neck from a 2010 car accident. It flares up and sometimes nothing helps until I can get to a chiropractor or get my muscles to relax with pilates or infrared sauna. I know my pain is due to inflammation, as most are. I was having one of those days when I had just returned from two weeks of traveling when I decided to try the honey that was sent to me. I didn’t think much of it until about 15 minutes later. I was reading a book and it occurred to me my neck pain was gone. That’s when I knew without a doubt I had to be involved, nothing had ever worked for me that easily. 

I remember telling my boyfriend “if this weren’t happening to me right now I wouldn’t believe it.” I wasn’t joking. I looked at him and said, “Really? C’mon? And then I took more before bed. Not only did my neck pain not return, but I also slept a solid 8 hours without waking up or being woken due to pain & discomfort.

The medicinal honey was incredible and I also wanted to see if we could work out the balance of flower nectar vs. hemp juice. I wanted honey that not only worked medicinally but also tasted incredible from a culinary point of view. At this point, the honey is the ultimate example of “Food Is Medicine”. Ilan and I are both on that same mission, health and wellness without pharmaceuticals is something we both believe in immensely.

Grown In: Tell us about the patented “Bee Fuse Technology” and how that all exactly works.

Joline Rivera: The patented technology is simple, but because it’s patented and proprietary I’m only able to speak to it in general terms. 

Our bees are free, that’s what I would like most for people to know. The health of people and our environment are important to me. Our bees are healthy, thriving swarms. They are not held captive or starved in any way…they fly around all day, every day of the year if they choose. Our bees start their honey production pollinating flowers like any other honey and are offered organic full-spectrum, whole-plant hemp concentrate, and organic juice. They take what they want or need. 

If you watch our video you’ll see the bees drinking the red juice with beautiful yellow pollen sacs filled with pollen on the back of their legs. It’s really fun to see. They’re infusing the cannabinoids into their honey, beeswax, and propolis for us. We simply put it in a jar. I’m proud to say our only ingredient in our honey is exactly what it says on our jar; organic, raw, all-natural honey.

Grown In: As we continue to adapt to Covid-19 and the physical and emotional challenges of 2020, how might individuals evolve their thinking as it relates to incorporating CBD and other cannabis products into their diets?

Joline Rivera: I consider myself a healthy person, but Covid is scary. I know I’m healthy but honestly I can’t escape the thought of wondering what if I’m one of those people who can’t fight it? Like all of you, stress and anxiety are at the top of my worries. The pandemic has only exacerbated this with feelings of anxiousness about the health of friends and family, personal health, and let’s add in a little more about job instability, reports about looming recession and dramatic shifts in everyday life and civil unrest. This is crazy.

But I also remember my dad saying to me if you have your health you have everything. He’s right. How can we be good for anything if we’re fighting an illness? Like wearing a mask or a seatbelt. I think of things in terms of, “What if?” We don’t know enough about cannabis or COVID…but what if? What if the latest research showing CBD is effective in fighting off COVID or helping people recover from COVID are accurate? What if feeding your endocannabinoid system will keep you from ever getting COVID? We don’t know. 

But I can tell you for sure, I’m feeding my endocannabinoid system with our honey every single day. I have even insisted on my Kitchen Toke team and their families do the same. I’m sharing the information with everyone I know because I think one of these days we’ll get the full research on just how powerful cannabis and hemp is for our health. I’m putting my “what if” plan into action because unlike pharmaceuticals I know eating cannabis/hemp in any form will not harm me. 

It’s a plant and it’s much better than smoking or synthetic drugs. I have no intention of waiting. My health is everything to me. We are in a health crisis…health care costs are skyrocketing, hospitals are overwhelmed and who wants to go to one anyway? I would urge anyone reading this to do some reading about your ECS system…it’s pretty amazing.

Grown In: What operational/staffing/funding changes are required to transition from a media company to a food manufacturer? 

Joline Rivera: Kitchen Toke Media isn’t going anywhere if I can help it. We just happen to also have a food brand. Our Kitchen Toke media team will stay exactly as it is. And like any company you have to have good advisors who have been here before and can help you accomplish your growth.

If there’s growing to be done it’ll all take place in the food brand. We’re in the process of a raise and considering some licensing deals as well as talking to some larger companies about partnerships. When it’s time to scale we will…but we’re in the second week of our launch and having some really good conversations so that’s exciting. 

Right now hemp, honey, and packing are all done in the same facility and while I consider our honey to be luxury, we’ve made sure to keep the packaging simple…it’s what’s in the jar that is a rare luxury. Everything we’ve done from the brand, labeling, photography, writing, and video production has all been done with my internal and incredible Kitchen Toke Media team. 

So…to answer your question, we’re not transitioning…we’re adding a second entity to Kitchen Toke Media and expanding the brand.

Grown In: How do you enjoy Kitchen Toke Honey? 

Joline Rivera: I enjoy the honey in many ways, but primarily in its simplest form. I put 1 teaspoon under the tongue like I would a tincture, except this will dissolve, it’s water-soluble so efficacy and absorption happens quickly. If you have soreness or ache/pain…you’ll notice a difference in 20 minutes or less. I could sell it all day but I don’t, people just have to try it. I know it works and I’m even considering a money-back guarantee. I also add it to my daily smoothies or randomly in the day if I feel stressed. And as I noted earlier, I have herniated discs in my neck so I take a teaspoon before brushing my teeth and climbing into bed. The honey won’t make you sleepy but I don’t have neck pain, my muscles are more relaxed and my sleep is better, and uninterrupted.

The second largest use at my house for our honey is for my two dogs. They’re both aging, 14 & 9 years old, with hip dysplasia and my youngest with Cushing’s Disease. I have a feeling the honey may be able to not only help her but possibly even get her off all Cushing’s medication. I’m one of those people who would do anything for my dogs, so while I obviously don’t know for sure, I’m sure going to try. I guess it’s back to that “What if?” thinking…what if I’m right?

Avatar photo

Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.