Cannabis is becoming more popular, accepted, and legal around the
U.S., but at CES 2020, it's verboten. And oddly enough, the
organization behind CES is banning it, despite awarding a
cannabis-related company with an award.
In one of the more bizarre stories to surface around CES 2020, a
company named Keep Labs has decided to bow out of the consumer
electronics show this year. In an interview with TechCrunch, the
company said it was told by the Consumer Technology Association
(CTA), which puts on the event, that it could only exhibit at the
show if it made no mention of cannabis and removed all mention of
cannabis from its products and marketing material.
But it gets even stranger.
Before this happened, the CTA awarded Keep Labs with an Innovation
Award, one of the organization's most highest honors, for a device
that securely stores marijuana while keeping it fresh.
At first blush, the product looks like a smart speaker with an LED
on the front that tell you the time. When you unlock it (using your
smartphone) and open the device's top, you'll find that it's
actually a storage device for weed that's designed to keep the
marijuana fresh. Keeping it securely locked until it's opened from
a phone is another major selling point.
According to TechCrunch, the CTA was really impressed by the
technology. But because of a longstanding policy against mentioning
cannabis, it asked Keep Labs to only discuss the storage features
in its device and make no mention of cannabis.
It's the latest in a string of odd decisions the CTA has made over
the years to limit what kind of tech makes it onto the show floor.
Last year, the CTA gave sex tech maker Lora DiCarlo an award for
its Ose massager, only to take it away because it believed the
technology didn't fit within the organization's product categories.
This year, the Ose is back -- and on display at CES.
Additionally, the CTA has long banned e-cigarettes and vapes,
despite their widespread popularity. And on those devices, there
are no signs of it reversing policy.
The Keep Labs ban comes at an important time for marijuana
Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, but hemp is now
legal. In certain states around the U.S., marijuana used for
medicinal use is legal. In others, recreational use is legal.
For its part, the CTA didn't shy away from its decision. In a
statement to TechCrunch, it acknowledged it banned Keep Labs from
discussing cannabis because it doesn't "have a category pertaining
to that market." The CTA spokesperson added that Keep Labs won its
Innovation Award as a home appliance.
It's unclear what this means for cannabis products going forward at
CES. But it appears that as long as cannabis is illegal on a
federal level and CTA adds a cannabis category, companies building
devices in that market are out of luck.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own,
not those of Inc.com.