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Cannabis tech was barred from CES 2020, like sex tech was last year

A 15-year veteran in enterprise technology, Phil Wilkins has epilepsy and uses cannabis medicinally to ease his seizures -- but he also has three children. Alongside a business partner, he created a solution: KEEP.

On the outside, KEEP looks like a charming little smart alarm clock. But it's all deception. KEEP is a safe, subtle way to store cannabis. It was effective and well-designed to the point where it scored an official nod as an Honoree for the 2020 CES Innovation Award.

Yet KEEP Labs, the company that makes KEEP, is nowhere to be found in any of the sprawling show floors that make up CES in Las Vegas. The reason? CTA, the organization behind both CES and the CES Innovation Award, barred KEEP Labs from using the word "cannabis" on its booth or on any marketing materials -- in spite of marijuana being legal to buy in Nevada.

So KEEP Labs said no.

"We are a cannabis storage device, we are not a generic storage device," Keep Labs' co-founder told me in a phone interview. As I spoke to Wilkins from my hotel room I could see a warehouse-size weed dispensary from my window. "It would be a major disservice to the industry and to our brand if we water down and say we were a generic storage device. So we decided not to attend."

The CTA said in a statement that "marijuana is illegal at the federal level, as well as in public parks and hotels in the state of Nevada," and that KEEP Labs could have exhibited if it labelled itself as a home appliance or storage device -- as it did when it submitted itself for an Innovation Award nomination. "They decided not to exhibit," the statement reads.

It's a shame, because there's impressive tech behind KEEP. The device, as with almost everything at CES, connects with your phone for biometric security. Once locked, it can only be unlocked from your phone with facial recognition or a fingerprint scanner. You'll get a notification on your phone if anyone touches your Keep. An internal scale weighs the stash inside to let you know, in the app, how much is left at any given time.


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