As reported by the Albuquerque Journal, a January 2019 ruling on a lawsuit filed by a medical cannabis exhibitor against EXPO New Mexico “was recently posted on a public database by the General Services Department upon the completion of a six-month period that’s established under New Mexico law.” In that Memorandum Opinion and Order, US District Judge James Parker notes that New Mexico State Fair officials’ enforcement of unreasonable booth display restrictions on a medical cannabis exhibitor violated that company’s First Amendment rights. Ruling in favor of the lawsuit’s complainant, Ultra Health LLC (a sponsor of Weekly Alibi’s Leaflet newsletter), the federal district judge permanently enjoined EXPO New Mexico officials from imposing such overly broad restrictions to protect the company’s right to free speech and prevent further instances of censorship. As part of a settlement agreement, Parker ordered EXPO New Mexico to pay the complainant restitution for legal fees amounting to $69,600. In that opinion, Parker notes: “A picture of a tractor tilling a field to prepare it for planting corn would be allowed in a vendor’s booth pertaining to corn, but the State Fair would prohibit the very same picture of the tractor tilling a field if placed in Ultra Health’s booth because it would constitute paraphernalia in that context. … Under Defendants’ expansive interpretation of the restrictions on implements and their images, even the most innocuous items [a shovel, a microscope or farm equipment] are rendered objectionable when displayed in the context of medical cannabis.”
Hyperlocal issues of freedom of expression for medical cannabis providers are mirrored in international cannabis news by commercial cannabis tech companies’ fight to showcase their innovations at CES, the world’s largest consumer technology conference. CNET reports that CTA, the organizer of the annual CES conference, barred Keep Labs―which garnered a CES Innovation award for its smart cannabis storage solution―from using the word “cannabis” on its booth or on any marketing materials; never mind that cannabis is legal in Nevada, where CES is hosted. In a statement, CTA said, “Marijuana is illegal at the federal level, as well as in public parks and hotels in the state of Nevada” and suggested Keep Labs brand its product generically, as a home or storage appliance. Keep Labs co-founder Phil Wilkins told CNET, “We are a cannabis storage device, we are not a generic storage device. 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.” In 2019, sexual tech company Lora Dicarlo won an Innovation Award from CES before a nervous CTA rescinded the award. Thanks to the ensuing controversy, CTA is officially allowing sex tech at CES in 2020. Perhaps a similar furor will eventually cause CTA to decide that cannabis tech also deserves a spot on the CES expo floor.