Weed People profiles personalities from America’s marijuana sector -- activists, entrepreneurs, academics, and innovators that push legalization forward. This week, veteran legalization advocate Leslie Bocskor.
The legal cannabis industry employs thousands of people with different expertise, and is fueled by a rapidly growing base of consumers. As it expands organically, a few weed-minded entrepreneurs consider the bigger picture: How can we accelerate this trend and take cannabis from millions to billions? Leslie Bocskor is an investment banker and entrepreneur with a sharp focus on the cannabis industry.
HIGH TIMES: Describe your involvement with cannabis.
LB: I have gotten involved in the cannabis industry professionally, and have now made it my focus. I am a co-founder and Managing Partner of Electrum Partners and Electrum Advisors, which provide guidance on licensing issues and will also be managing a hedge fund that is investing exclusively in the legal cannabis industry. EP is advising some of the biggest players in the legal cannabis industry on the strategies for Nevada and beyond. I am the Founding Chairman of the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association as well, and a member of the Arcview Investor Network. Nationally, I am currently considering advisory or other roles with other states that are setting up industry associations.
HT: How is state-level legalization affecting your cannabis-related activities?
LB: The current regulatory environment and its constantly changing landscape present an opportunity that comes once in many lifetimes. The current conflict between state and federal law combined with the backpressure of demand creates an incredible tailwind, and we have an opportunity for smaller entrepreneurs to establish substantive businesses that can scale quickly. The legal grey area allows these smaller entrepreneurs to establish themselves before the larger players are willing to take the risk of entering the market.
HT: What are some of the victories of state-level legalization in your area?
LB: There are many who have said that the Nevada law, which passed last year establishing a regulated medical cannabis program, is the most business-friendly medical marijuana law in the country. I agree with this. States across the country who want to grow this industry in their state should look to NV as a prime example. It is informative to remember that NV has been the benchmark for regulation in the gambling industry worldwide, and this has informed the process for developing a regulated Legal Cannabis market.
HT: What are some of the failures of state-level legalization in your area?
LB: Nevada has had a medical marijuana law for over a decade at this point, and it has taken a long time for the patients to get access. We have also seen the local jurisdictions having trouble with keeping up with the rapidly changing environment.
HT: Do you believe the federal government is making progress towards decriminalization or legalization?
LB: I believe that we are likely to end federal prohibition within five to seven years. With the DOJ memos, the FinCen guidance, and the recent amendment passed in the US House of Representatives, the arc of the reform can be mapped pretty clearly.
HT: How long, do you predict, before weed is completely legal in America?
LB: Five to seven years.
HT: How long, do you predict, before weed is completely legal in the world?
LB: The entire world? Probably a very long time. Our global culture is still very fragmented with issues like clean water, living environments, human rights, education and disease. I think change in the US will lead to a cascade where much of the developed world will begin to reap the benefits from legal markets for this plant.
HT: What is the biggest challenge facing legalization on a state level?
LB: The biggest challenges on any state level is having an honest conversation where the propaganda of the past can be left in the past, as well as working through our already challenging legislative environment. Curiously, even Congress seems to agree we need to reform our laws. Who would have thought that legal cannabis would end up being perhaps our only currently bipartisan issue!
HT: A national level?
LB: Same as on the state but magnified by the sheer size of our federal government.
HT: The global level?
LB: We need to address clean water, living environments, human rights, education, and disease, to name a few. We need to see those addressed in some meaningful fashion in many places before we can really think about true global legalization.