As a writer I’m always asking, “what if ?”

As an Enthusiast for cannabis-derived medicinal products I asked myself;

“what if a different market focus and a different approach was taken with retailing CDB products ?”

With the inevitable change in Federal laws concerning cannabis (come January it seems like a perfect bi-partisan project to me) this is a good time to look at different retailing strategies for capitalizing on the mass-market potential for CBD products.

Here I scatter some nuts and bolts from the world of mass market retailing – specifically focusing on a CBD sales channel for

GROCERY STORES—particularly chains.

Though I label my sketch of a CBD program a “retail thought experiment,”

There’s nothing experimental about the main elements it uses:

Product. Merchandising. Placement 

These are the key components I focused on while doing Marketing/Sales

along with store design ( check stand areas)

for 18 years on behalf of a magazine distributor to upscale/specialty grocers around the country.

My efforts revolved around projects with Whole Foods, Sprouts, Fresh Thyme, New Seasons, Berkeley Bowl, Central Market in TX even Aldi –among others.

In my opinion in order to maximize the sales of your CBD products you want to strive to be at the check stands, the Point of Purchase area—-the number one Impulse Purchase Zone in the grocery store.

The check stand fixture pictured above is an example of the type of merchandising vehicle I helped design and place in these stores. This is the area you seek to have your products.

I can guarantee if you can get them placed here you’ll see at least a 300% increase in sales volume if you’re already somewhere else in the store.

Or find you have to radically readjust your sales projections should you find a spot at the check stands.

So here’s what my theoretical program build looks like:


For this discussion I’m using CBD Pet Products. 

Why? Because people love their pets. They often take better care of them –then they do of themselves when it comes to matters of health.

And the category is rapidly expanding in sales—with more attention to customized care for pets.

They also have less regulation.

They’re not technically formulated for humans so they have fewer protocols to satisfy for certification. And grocers may feel more comfortable putting these products up there first knowing they’re combining two hot categories: CBD and pet products.

To me it’s a good foot- in- the- door kind of approach. You make it easier for grocers to get involved with your offering—especially if there’s a good margin for the retailer.

My suggestion is you go after the stores with several products or Lines. Not one product but a number of them.

You can approach this as a distributor with various brands or a manufacture who goes direct with their own products.

Or what I would suggest trying:

offer to do Private Label manufacturing for folks like Kroger, Albertsons and Lidl for instance. Think of how you can integrate your CBD manufacturing with their private-label natural banners.

Ideas for Lines: 

Below are some ideas off the top of my head for an eclectic line of pet products:

  1. Sparrow: a gentle daily formula like a tincture in a dropper form for domestic pets. Dogs, cats, pigs, birds, rabbits… A general supplement kind of approach that can be added to their water or fed directly into their mouths.

  2. Drama: this is a Rescue Remedy- influenced product treating the trauma that an of-the moment incident creates. Fight scenarios: dog on dog, cat on dog, dog on raccoon. Or a long trip. Or just a sensitive creature. It works on the animal’s emotional plane to soothe upsetting states.

  3. Prince and Princess: Male and female biscuits for dogs. Vegan-based and specifically formulated for each gender—they help the teeth, gums and digestion. Your dog can’t get enough of them.

  4. Savory Balm: a balsamic salve that treats wounds, scratches, burns, rashes…wherever some topical treatment makes sense. All natural ingredients like olive oil, beeswax, herbs and minerals are formulated to compliment the nourishing and healing CBD. Think homeopathic remedies like Stop Sting.


The next building block in this program is the merchandising vehicle for your lines. A Fixture.

If you can infuse… essence- of- Apple Store, like the MedMen dispensary in Hollywood…

…into a dedicated fixture – your visual merchandising approach–

for the Point of Purchase

..something that adds a positive aesthetic component to the retailer’s existing check stand area…

…you’ve increased the likelihood off success for you and the retailer.

You wrap the “pitch” for your products around a Check Stand program featuring a fixture you’ve created to showcase your line and drive sales.

Since the purchases at the check stands are characterized as “impulse” buys…

with CBD on everyone’s mind you can exploit typical customer behavior which has a lot do with rewarding themselves and automatically looking for something to catch their eye.

You could come up with a MODULAR design like you see below—something that can be retrofitted into an existing set up.

In this particular example you can spice up the set by adding a space for a small cooler that can be filled with… your CBD water? Your soft drink?

And you give this fixture to the retailer


In lieu of slotting fees you can offer this as part of your strategy to help the retailer choose you.


High volume sales are supposed to be what check stand areas deliver. But new consumer buying habits means the traditional products

…magazines, candy, gum and soft drinks…

are experiencing declines and irregular patterns in their sales.

With the mass marketing of CBD on the horizon you can offer smart retailers a way they can capitalize on the wave and re-charge sales in their impulse zone by reshuffling products at the check stands.

And one of the ways you can help your case is to give the retailer a fixture combing great aesthetics with great function for great sales.

Of course there are always details.

In you contractual dealings you want to be sure to protect your investment.

It has to stay at the check stands, other products can’t be put on it without your consent…things that like that.

You’ll also have to work out fulfillment. Is it a turn -key program—with the retailer filling the shelves with the product you send UPS or Fed X?

Or does the retailer expect the fixture to be serviced? Is that something you can do?

Or can you afford to farm fulfillment out to the 3rd party the chain already uses to merchandise various products—from magazines to kitchenware?

Grocery stores have their own kinds of logistics and expectations pertaining to their providers—so you’ll have to work that out individually with the retailers whose interest you awaken.

But if you can dig in and strive to customize the program for the retailer…

…the right product in the right place at the right time

…makes it all worthwhile.


I’m an Enthusiast without a home– in the cannabis industry.

But I’m happy to look at working with anyone in it around consulting or various projects. Please feel free to get back to me with any questions.

Here are some previous posts where I looked dispensaries –their layouts and products.

Dean Balsamo




  • The drawings here are by Colorado resident Craig Christenson, an engineer/designer I’ve worked with for 15 years on hundreds of projects for retailers of the caliber named above.

Craig’s email is



Santa Fe: A Conference of Spies

Santa Fe: A Conference of Spies

by Dean Balsamo

Do you feel unappreciated at work? Have you been passed over or demoted because of your race, religion or gender? Are you getting divorced? Feel like getting revenge? Just like to break the rules?

… Work for a foreign ministry, military or spy agency?

….And handle classified information?

You  just might take the bait when the CIA officer who’s cultivated your friendship for the last few months or years—

Taking note of these kinds of “stress points” in your life-

Decides the time is right to “show a little thigh,” …promise to show you some goodies if you’ll show some of yours.

The “bait” is usually money. The play is primal—Maslow’s hierarchy of needs–entry points for a spy’s designs on the information you  possess.

The scenario above is drawn from a talk by a Soul Catcher—a CIA agent trained to recruit assets from foreign governments.

He was one of a handful of CIA veteran presenters at a recent conference on spies I attended in Santa Fe entitled:

Spies, Lies and Nukes

Inside International Espionage

(Plame with a “Soul Catcher”) 

Organized by rock-star resident Valerie Plame , the venue offered a rare chance for the general public to not only see and hear presentations by “legends” in the world of spies– but actually get the chance to talk individually with them during the meet and mingle portions of the program.

It was evident from the talks that seduction, optics, and the Art of Persuasion form the backbone of spy-craft. This extended to the structure of the conference itself – it was designed to create an empathic response on the part of those attending.

Not that most of the audience needed any special maneuvers to get them on board. There was a unique atmosphere to the event. These were spy Enthusiasts—many of whom I found out—had that Six Degrees of Separation thing happening…they were aware of the projects, knew the players and even participated in aspects relating to the things that were discussed.

The crowd was friendly. In fact the word that came to me was “fraternal”…like the Masons or the way my Dad and his comrades got together in the early 60’s when I was a kid

The contagious atmosphere was heightened by the fact we were holed up from 8-4 in a downtown hotel—with meals and coffee breaks –perfectly scheduled to allow presenters and audience to get to know one another.

The latter is what made this venue for me. I found the men and women I met were…just like us…except the life of the spy was their calling and a greater than normal sense of public service was their mission.

Talk about polishing your brand…if this had been an official CIA event designed to influence Americans about their work they couldn’t have found a better approach.

Listening to them give their presentations and panels –and most of all –getting a chance to speak with them —gave me the chance to see them as the individuals they are.

(some of the speakers)

Boomers are going to gag, but my attitudes about the CIA underwent a huge change. I no longer look at the agency as a monolithic entity sending automatons out on nefarious assignments around the globe.

While united on certain things – none of them believe Russian influence in our system is anywhere near the levels our media claims it is for instance– there were also plenty of divergent feelings and passions on display that countered the group-think image I had of the agency before the conference.

It was  a strange feeling for a person like myself– who over the years has delved into much of the so-called “conspiracy” literature and opinions from Left to Right about the agency’s activities.

I went home the first night thinking I’d been the subject of mind control—an operation designed to specifically create the feelings I now had.

But by the second day I was all in. It was fascinating to hear what those behind the scenes had to say about their objectives and roles.

Outside of Aspen, think tanks, and Fortune 500 level executives the general public just doesn’t come in contact with this milieu and its perspectives.

I came away from the event thinking that spying—when connected to those Maslow needs—is something that grows naturally from our DNA—wrapped around the thing that trumps everything — survival.

I had to do a mental balancing act. On one hand the presenters gave their takes on various events they knew from experience and agency lore— it was exciting and gave me a lot more confidence about the CIA and those who comprise it.

At the same time they did their best to paint the agency  in a positive light. They are spies after all. Dealing with the underbelly—the darker impulses driving the “moist robot,” or our Homo sapiens selves– has got to generate some moral dilemmas but as usual there’s always someone willing to take on tasks others find they can’t. A good thing.

The presentations covered a host of subjects from the aforementioned recruitment strategies to behind the scenes of the Cuban Missile Crisis to a discussion of the “rendering” or torture the CIA was tasked with doing after 9/11 to (of course) a discussion of JFK’S assassination.

The later talk was slightly disappointing because the presenter offered Case Closed by Gerald Posner as his definitive source on the subject. It’s a book serious researchers consider a whitewash of a “whitewash” as the speaker surprisingly called the Warren Commission.

But then his talk was one he had given  to some generalist society at Harvard—not an audience in Santa Fe.

Calling it the “The Single Shooter Theory” would have been more accurate in my opinion. And then say a panel covering the 5 top questions about the tragedy–which would naturally touch on the idea of multiple shooters.

But as usual at conferences and trade shows it’s the off-handed remarks and gossip that really ups the ante in terms of the take- a-ways from the event.

Things like: the presenter above explaining anomalies around Kennedy, drugs, and MKULTRA as products of the “rogue” culture of the CIA in the 50’s/60’s, Kennedy bringing his favorite mistress to the White House so she could be evacuated along with his family should a nuclear war break out with the Russians, yes Russia does train “sparrows,” women agents using sex to carry out their tasks, and…

the various theories about the agency’s activities– members of the audience shared with anyone who would listen.

In one case an elderly man brought a brief case filled papers outlining an ongoing litany of sins committed by the agency . Needless to say he did’t exactly have a crowd around him.

Thank God Plame handled the Q &A portions of the program like a press conference…at least how we normally envision them…

This being Santa Fe this part of the program could have gone off the rails –but she enforced a …save the diatribe…what’s your question …discipline that kept the conference moving.

(from a set here in Santa Fe–a TV series about the Manhattan Project)

If the presenters had a message it could be boiled down to two main themes:

One; Russians (or Chinese etc.) can do nowhere near the damage we do to ourselves –our own divisiveness does the main damage to our society.

And two; Nothing can replace “presence,” …agents embedded in countries around the globe… as the prime focus for intelligence gathering.

Valerie Plame and those she worked with to mount this special event deserve kudos for running it with both precision and heart.

As for myself I came up with a series of topics and themes to address in some future event and/or a TV series on Netflix, Amazon– the usual suspects. Some of those ideas follow below.

Rogue Culture: The CIA in the 50/60’s:

  • UFO’S, LSD, JFK, MKULTRA and AI/Robotics – what are the implications and dangers involved in working with hackers and things like Block chain and crypto currencies.

FBI-CIA Relations Through the years

What’s worked, what hasn’t?

The Art of Persuasion and Recruiting:

More about the techniques a “soul catcher” uses. They seem like useful ideas for business and everyday life.

The CIA and the Abstract Expressionists

Is the CIA responsible for creating the market for these artists—based on the way they used the artwork to show the world what a free society we have?

Sparrow and Spy

Discuss the Russian methods of using agents and sex. Talk about famous cases like Anna Chapman and Kristine Keeler for instance.

The Real Americans: Russian Activity in the 1980’s

Yes a shameless play on the TV program. I’m sure there’s a “hook” here.

I’d be happy to go over more with a producer, show runner, writer etc.

Thanks for reading.

Dean Balsamo