Going into CES 2018, I figured that the nascent “canna-tech” industry would have had a more prominent showing on the show floor, especially since California, Silicon Valley’s home state, has officially legalized it for recreational use. But despite all that, there were very few canna-tech exhibitors to be found.
I did manage to meet with one exhibiting company, however, called Altopa. The Seattle-based company showed off the Oblend, a countertop device that is “capable of precision blending essential oils and other botanical extracts.” Those “other” extracts happen to include THC and CBD oils, both chemical compounds found in marijuana.
Oblend: the at-home dispensary
Altopa set up its booth at the Sands Expo Convention Center, nestled among the hoards of numerous connected devices and smart appliances. Altopa didn’t seem out of place among the smart home masses, however, because of the way it was positioning its product. “It’s like becoming your own chemist,” said Nicole Wicker, the company’s co-founder. And that’s exactly how it’s being marketed.
'It’s like becoming your own chemist'
The Altopa Oblend is about the size of a Keurig, and if this were in a brick-and-mortar store it would likely be displayed among them. The machine opens up to reveal a tray with room for 24 capsules, each filled with their own soluble solution. On the inside of the lid, there are chips in each capsule spot, which is how the machine determines which capsule contains what it’s been programmed to mix. Once you punch in a recipe from the companion app, the machine starts to mix your concoction.
Wicker made it sound as if there were seemingly endless possibilities to what the Oblend could mix. If you prefer to inhale marijuana, for instance, you could use the Oblend to patent a blend of THC and flavorful essential oils for use in a vaporizer. Or if you suffer from chronic muscle pain, you could use the machine to infuse your favorite creams and lotions with CBD, which has been known to reduce inflammation. Wicker also mentioned using the Oblend for enhancing culinary oils. “You don’t even have to use weed if you don’t want to,” she added.
I didn’t get to see the Oblend in action, nor did I get to experience whether the products it produces are effective, but I did get a look at its product lineup. The $950 Oblend starter kit comes with everything you need, including the machine and a two-dozen pack of starter cartridges. Anything that’s infused with THC or CBD has to be purchased through a mandated dispensary, however, though the company appears to be working on a distribution method.
I thought it was interesting that Altopa hardly shied away from mentioning that the Oblend could be used for blending marijuana’s two main components into lotions and vaporizer cartridges. But why should it cower from the truth? After all, it wasn’t founded on the pleasure of getting high, but because Altopa’s other co-founder, Matt Wilson, was inspired to champion the product after seeing how medical marijuana had helped his border collie who was suffering from seizures.
For the most part, Altopa seems to be making strides as a lifestyle and health product, rather than as a marijuana one. It even received accolades from the Consumer Trade Association (CTA), which hosts CES. Worth noting, however, is that it received an honorary mention in the category of fitness, sports, and biotech.