About The Grass Ceiling

Michael Carlon

Michael Carlon


Welcome to The Grass Ceiling, a podcast series featuring in-depth-interviews with stakeholders in the legal cannabis industry.

I’ve spent the past two decades working in marketing and the market research industry specifically. My firm, Vertigo Partners, is hired by fortune 100 brands to help them with everything from new product development, advertising evaluation, shopper insights, and brand positioning. As a researcher, I’m a naturally curious individual and I am very curious about this space for a number of reasons.

I started my career in the mid 90s working for the world’s first interactive marketing agency, Modem Media. Those days were like the wild west – we were introducing clients to the prospect of the Web as a commercial medium. As part of that, we ran first banner ads on the web as well as launched some of the world’s first commercial websites. Nothing in my career has come close to the excitement I felt blazing new ground in that industry. Everything we did, we were doing for the first time and, honestly, we didn’t know where it all was going and made a lot of stuff up as we went along. In short, we didn’t break the rules, we wrote the rules.

Now, enter the legal cannabis space. What’s going on in this industry is reminiscent of my Modem Media days. Like they did in the dot com boom, entrepreneurs are scrambling to get a piece of the action. As cannabis is legalized at the state level for medicinal use, and sometimes for adult recreational use, people are trying to find a way to make money in this space. There are challenges and hurdles, though. Raising money for one; indoor growing centers and dispensaries are expensive to build and the volatility of this industry scares away traditional investors making capital challenging to come by.

Then, of course, there is volatility at the federal level. Since cultivation, distribution, and possession of cannabis remain a federal crime, entrepreneurs are open themselves up to legal risk should the feds decide to crack down.

Crime is also a concern. People worry about a dispensary opening in their town or neighborhood assuming it will open the door to crime, not realizing that dispensaries are some of the most secure buildings around (certainly more secure than the drugstore down the street that anyone can walk into and pick up their prescribed opiates).

Lastly, there’s stigma. Many people assume that cannabis users are underachieving pleasure seekers and don’t want these “deviants” lining up outside of a building in their town trying to score some dope. They don’t think of the cancer patient looking to combat the nausea that accompanies treatment or the pain associated with the disease itself.  They don’t think of someone suffering from Parkinson’s looking to get short-term relief of their symptoms.

These are just a few hurdles, there are others.

My goal with The Grass Ceiling is to introduce you to people who have a stake in this industry – entrepreneurs, lawmakers at the city, state, and federal levels, as well as patients who are using cannabis in one form or another to treat an illness. We’ll also hear from opponents so that we may paint a complete picture about what’s going on in this space.

That’s what The Grass Ceiling is all about. If you or anyone you know would like to be featured, please reach out to me at michael.carlon@thegrassceiling.live