For an event focused on the future, CES can be pretty backward in its decision making. The Las Vegas tech show is once again facing heat for the way it handled a non-traditional exhibit, this time a cannabis product. Ahead of CES, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) named Keep Labs among its Innovation Award Honorees for its discreet marijuana storage device, Keep. It was the first weed-tech company to receive the accolade.
The product — The minimalist stash box is designed to sit on a shelf beside any other home accessory without drawing attention to the contents inside. It’s app-connected, has biometric locking, doubles as a clock, and can control for temperature and humidity. It’s a really cool and useful device, and the CTA apparently thought so too — at least, at first. In an interview with TechCrunch published this week, Keep Labs revealed it decided to pull out of its exhibit because it was told not to display any paraphernalia or mention of cannabis on the show floor.
Uhh… what? — We’re scratching our heads at this one, and definitely not alone. Let’s revisit that sequence: the CTA awarded the weed-tech company for its innovative design, gave the company the green light to exhibit at the show, then CES turned around and said it could do so but… don’t talk about the product the device is built around? Yes, it does sound a lot like what happened with Lora Dicarlo’s sex toy last year (a company which, by the way, is back with an even stronger presence than before).
It’s a confusing move on a lot of fronts, not least being the fact that marijuana is legal in Las Vegas, where CES is held — both medical and recreational. Input has reached out to Keep Labs and the CTA for comment and will update this post upon hearing back.
They’ll regret this one, too — A few months after last year’s controversy, the CTA apologized for the way CES handled the sex toy company’s presence and reinstated its award. It was the right move, for sure, but embarrassing and disappointing that things got to that point in the first place.
Keep Labs’ product has a clear, practical function — one that’s increasingly necessary as the household presence of weed continues to grow. As a medical user, safe storage of my product is a constant concern. It’s a plus that Keep can optimize storage conditions, too. But, this concern applies to recreational use too.
No matter what you're using it for, you don’t want someone touching your stash, intentionally or unintentionally. It's a safety risk. What if you have kids? Pets? Roommates? There’s no need to spell it out. Keep offered an innovative solution to a common problem... which is what this is all supposed to be about. CES, it's 2020 — what are you doing?
Update: In a statement to Input, Keep Labs CEO and co-founder Philip Wilkins expressed both gratitude and disappointment over the ordeal. "We are honored to be the first cannabis adjacent product or company to ever be awarded as a CES Innovation Honoree. With this coveted honor, we obviously planned to exhibit in Las Vegas this year," Wilkins said. "That being said, as we were finalizing our admission to exhibit, we were told that we could not mention cannabis in 'any signage, marketing materials and product.'
"This came as a shock to us as that's exactly what we were recognized for, being the first loT device for cannabis storage in the home (language you can see on the CES website)," the CEO continued. "Watering down our product in order to showcase would not only be going against our brand, but would have done the entire cannabis industry a disservice at a pivotal moment in time when the stigma associated with cannabis needs to evolve. We are not a general home storage device. We are intentionally designed to store cannabis products responsibly."
The CTA also later responded, saying: "Marijuana is illegal at the federal level — as well as in public parks and hotels in the state of Nevada. Because of this, CES does not cover cannabis. Keep Labs was able to exhibit under the terms they’d showcase their product as a home appliance or storage device — the category they submitted their innovation award for. They decided not to exhibit."