Here we go again. In an incident that sounds oddly familiar to an embarrassing controversy during the Consumer Electronics Show last year, the trade organization behind the massive tech event is once again under fire for honoring a product before turning around and censoring it. Last year, it was sex tech. This year, it’s a weed product.
KEEP Labs, the maker of a facial recognition-protected cannabis storage device, was named as an honoree in the Home Appliances category of this year’s CES Innovation Awards by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which puts on the annual trade show. But the company has opted out of exhibiting its product at CES after the trade show reportedly told KEEP that it had to remove any mention of cannabis from its marketing and display materials on the showroom floor, TechCrunch first reported.
KEEP's CTA award was the first for a weed tech company. But the historically Puritan rule-makers behind CES have made it difficult for companies presenting weed technologies to exhibit their products. In a phone call with Gizmodo, KEEP's CEO and co-founder Philip Wilkins said the company originally intended on still exhibiting when it was contacted about the restrictions in December but changed its mind after considering the fact that it wouldn’t be able to showcase the product’s functionality.
“Once we got to the contracting phase for actually getting the exhibitor spot, we were told that we could not mention cannabis, show cannabis, or any related paraphernalia about cannabis,” Wilkins told Gizmodo. “And at that point, we had a choice to make about whether we water down the brand and look gimmicky or stay true to our mission trying to have a conversation around responsible cannabis storage.”
Wilkins said the company felt its position was valid given that KEEP neither encourages nor promotes the use of weed. Moreover, Wilkins noted the irony in censoring the mention of weed during CES while the event’s very own website highlights KEEP's intended use for “cannabis” throughout its innovation awards product summary.