CES tech show bans all cannabis talk—in Las Vegas

Published on January 8, 2020 · Last updated July 28, 2020
CES tech show, cannabis in tech, marijuana gadgets
Attendees head to the convention floor on the first day of the CES tech show Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Canadian cannabis tech company Keep Labs has pulled out of the CES gadget show after being banned from using the term ‘cannabis’ to promote its products.

Nearly a dozen states allow the use and sale of cannabis for recreational purposes, and policies around the world vary. Broad cannabis sales began in Nevada in 2017. Las Vegas, where CES takes place, is now home to what’s claimed to be the world’s largest cannabis dispensary, Planet 13.

The logic behind the decision

But CES organizers say cannabis’ acceptance isn’t widespread yet. CES organizers prohibited Keep Labs from mentioning the word cannabis, showing cannabis in promotional materials, or discussing what the Keep device does.

As of 2019, legal cannabis has created 211,000 full-time jobs in America

“We don’t allow pornographic. We don’t allow content where children are killed. We don’t allow anything with vaping,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which organizes CES. “Marijuana has been a tougher one for us.”

He said the show is waiting to see if cannabis becomes more legal, at least in the U.S.

“It is changing very quickly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we changed it sometime in the future as well,” he said.

Keep Labs takes a stand

Keep Labs was awarded a prestigious CES Innovation Award in October for its “Keep” home cannabis storage device. It connects wirelessly to an app and lets users unlock the storage unit with a fingerprint or facial recognition. After CES placed limits on what Keep can show, the company decided it was better not to attend at all.

Keep co-founder Philip Wilkins described the move as 'naive.'

Keep was to be one of about 4,500 companies exhibiting at the four-day CES show, which opened Tuesday.

Keep co-founder Philip Wilkins described the move as “naive.”

Planet 13 dispensary’s marketing specialist, Brandon Zimmer, said he was surprised by organizers’ decision, given that CES is supposed to be a showcase for tech innovations. He said cannabis tech is an exciting field, with lots of invention and new devices.

But Gartner analyst Werner Goertz said organizers are being smart in being cautious.

Last year, CES also banned an innovation award winner, a vibrator made by a female-founded startup. That led to complaints that CES was being tone deaf on diversity. CES ultimately relented and allowed space for sex tech companies this year as a trial.

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