Leslie Bocskor began his career in investment banking, but developed an interest in disruptive industries—the Internet in the ’90s, online gaming in “the aughts” and now the legal cannabis industry. His firm, Electrum Partners, advises businesses as they navigate this emerging—and lucrative—field. Bocskor cites a RAND Corp study showing the cannabis industry was a $50 billion-a-year business, not including industrial hemp, pharmaceuticals, medical marijuana and more. When you add it all up, you’re looking at what could be “a $200 billion-a-year industry in 10 years,” he says. “If you combine Major League Baseball, the NHL, the NFL and the NBA—that’s only $35 billion a year.”
Big Chance for the Little Guy
Bocskor points out that the cannabis industry offers unprecedented opportunities. “The federal illegality in the United States combined with the state legality and the patchwork nature of new markets means that big business can’t come in and crush small business with their wallet,” he says. “You can’t have Anheuser-Busch or R.J. Reynolds or CVS using their size and their money to force competition to become that much more intense, which reduces the profitability that entrepreneurs have and forces them to try to find exits. Big businesses can’t come in until federal prohibition stops.” He adds, “It’s wealth creation in a much more broad faction than we’ve ever seen.”
Patience Is a Virtue
Many lamented the slow rollout of Nevada’s medical marijuana industry, but Bocskor wasn’t one of them. “The delays have been fantastic,” he says. “This is too important to rush. Nevada regulated gaming when no one else did. We understand how to set up regulatory agreements for things that are illegal in other jurisdictions. That experience allows us to say with real credibility: ‘We’re going to build a better regulatory framework than any other state, and we’re going to set the model for the rest of the world.’”
Come for the Gaming, Stay for the Art
Bocskor moved to Las Vegas in 2010 to research the casino industry. The turning point came when he and his wife were introduced to First Friday. “We’re both involved in the arts and we thought, ‘Wow, if First Friday exists in Vegas, we can probably live here.’” Bocskor is now on the boards of Whirlygig and the First Friday Foundation, as well as helping create the Las Vegas Halloween Parade.