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Leslie Bocskor: Nevada ‘Best Regulatory Framework in the World’

July 3, 2017

As Nevada prepared to open its first adult-use cannabis stores on July 1, Leafly caught up with Leslie Bocskor, the Las Vegas investment banker and founding chairman of the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association. An early member of the ArcView Investor Network, Bocskor was recently named vice chairman of GB Sciences, a cannabis-based pharmaceutical research firm based in Las Vegas.

Leafly: What does recreational cannabis mean for Nevada?

Bocskor: It means we’re going to see a gradual end of the black market.

It’s great for business. It’s great for tax revenue. It’s great for compassionate access for people who aren’t even getting medical marijuana.

Getting it out of the black market, though, is the heart of it. By having a regulated market, we’re making sure that we’re not sending money out of the country to criminal organizations. That’s what resonates for me.

Leslie Bocskor: Nevada's testing regs will result in "the cleanest cannabis ever produced."

Leslie Bocskor: Nevada’s testing regs will result in “the cleanest cannabis ever produced.” (Photo courtesy GB Sciences)

Can Nevada be a model for recreational cannabis in America?

People regard the Nevada framework as the best regulatory framework in the world. Nevada has a history regulating things other jurisdictions don’t — gaming, mixed martial arts, prostitution and escort services.

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Nevada’s cannabis regulatory framework has been implemented in such a commonsense way. Testing for medical and recreational is the same. Colorado medical is not tested, but recreational is tested. Nevada has the most stringent testing: testing for microbial contamination, biological contamination, mold, mildew, fungus, heavy metals, pesticides, fungicides in parts per million and parts per billion. It’s the cleanest cannabis that’s ever been produced because of the testing regulations. If our food was tested as stringently as Nevada cannabis is tested, we’d have less food borne illnesses than we do.

Regulating cannabis is not like handling plutonium. Recreational cannabis is not going to cause the world to open up and start swallowing people. It’s going to be an enormous positive for Nevada. It’s going to be an enormous positive for all of the tourists that come here. And since we get tourists from all over the world, it will also be a way for other markets to see what legal, well-regulated cannabis can look like.

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Nevada’s early-start recreational cannabis sales arrive with a rocky backstory, including a lawsuit to compel licensing of alcohol distributors and an emergency order by the governor that tightened regulations in order to start recreational sales. Doesn’t Question 2, the voter ballot initiative that legalized cannabis in 2016, already chart the course?

There’s so much confusion around this and there doesn’t need to be.

The ballot initiative did not specify a need [or mechanism] for fast-track implementation. The state began fast track implementation because having adult use legal, while not having a regulated infrastructure to provide the products to the consumers who want it, would create a larger black market.

The ballot initiative specified that regulation would be finalized by January, 2018. Somewhere along the way there was some confusion. [People mistakenly believed that] implementing fast track adult use meant implementing all measures of the ballot initiative at the same time. That is not true. You do not need to implement distributors under fast track because fast track was not what the ballot initiative called for. You need to implement distributors only under the ballot initiative language, which will take hold in 2018.

Why does the state want to fast track distribution licenses if the potential distributors aren’t yet ready to handle the business?

The state mistakenly started to pursue having distributors as part of fast track implementation. State officials didn’t understand that it was not necessary.

Then a court got involved and said the alcohol distributors who were given the opportunity, in the language of the ballot initiative, to apply for distribution licenses were not given enough time to go through application process to be part of fast track, which is true. But there is no mandate for them to be part of fast track.

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This court holdup doesn’t need to happen. We can still give the distributors licenses in a normal time period in 2018, even as we let existing medical cannabis distributors serve adult-use consumers under the fast track implementation system.

Once everybody realizes that, the whole thing goes away — the emergency order, the lawsuit, everything disappears as soon as all of stakeholders realize this is not necessary right now, that it is not mandated by the ballot initiative. This idea that distributors are necessary in fast track is a fallacy.

You praise Nevada’s regulatory framework. Does Nevada risk anything with these last-minute machinations?

Every jurisdiction that’s legalized cannabis has had fits and starts. Will Nevada look foolish? Every time you watch the sausage-making happen it looks messy. If we look at how Nevada implemented medical and how methodical and steady it was in the process, it ended up working very, very well. 

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One of the most progressive aspects of Nevada’s medical cannabis regulations is reciprocity, which allows medical cannabis patients from other states to purchase cannabis in Nevada dispensaries. Is reciprocity a success?

If you just measure it as an experience for consumers, it’s the best experience they’ll have in any jurisdiction.

States like Florida and Hawaii that have a fairly robust tourist industry, how they could not implement reciprocity as part of their programs is incomprehensible to me. How can you tell the tourists who are traveling to your jurisdiction — a cancer patient who’s traveling between their chemotherapy sessions, someone who suffers from MS and uses cannabis every day to manage their peripheral neuropathy, or someone who suffers from PTSD and uses it to deal with anxiety — that we’re going to force you to choose either not to come here, or to commit a crime by flying with cannabis, or forcing you to go to the black market? The reciprocity that Nevada implemented is just sound policy.

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Nevada relies on out-out-state and international money to keep its economy rolling. The state welcomed outside investors in state cannabis businesses. Is that also a big difference?

Colorado and Washington said, “We’re going set up a legal marijuana industry but we’re not going to allow anyone from outside of the state to invest in it. They have to be citizens of this state.”

On its face it sounds good for the people of Washington and Colorado. But it’s not. It caused all sorts of mischief. People found work-arounds. It also created a problem in limiting the amount of capital and the number of good actors who could come in. It’s actually been worse for the citizens of those states than if they had allowed outside investors. Both Washington and Colorado have started to change to allow outside investment. Nevada allowed outside investment, along with reciprocity, from the beginning. These types of things are just common sense.

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Does Nevada risk being over-regulated?

When was the last time you heard of a patron being cheated in a Nevada casino? It doesn’t happen. Nevada is the platinum standard globally for regulating casinos. If you have a Nevada unlimited gaming license, that speaks volumes. They say that it’s easier to become a Secret Service agent protecting the President of the United States than it is to become a Nevada unlimited gaming license holder. The vetting process is extremely comprehensive.

The same thing was applied in giving licenses for medical marijuana and now adult use. I know someone who ultimately got a license but the background check uncovered that when he was in college he got a DUI. This is a 50-year-old man! That held up the approval of his medical marijuana operators license. He had to explain himself.

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Nevada is extremely diligent in the “persons of good character” acid test to make sure that the people who are going to operate these business are people of character who are going to make the right decisions, that they’re not going to make short-term decisions based on greed, that they’re not going to divert product out of state or sell to minors. The Nevada gaming industry is so well run and is such a successful industry because the regulation has been handled so well. We’re seeing the same thing here with cannabis.

Which strain do you recommend to people coming to Las Vegas to sample recreational cannabis?

Tangilope, grown by Matrix Nevada. I’ve never before smelled or tasted anything like this. It smells like tangerines. It’s extraordinary. It’s available in many dispensaries in town.

Ed Murrieta's Bio Image

Ed Murrieta

Ed Murrieta is a veteran lifestyle journalist and multimedia producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Cannabist, Wired.com, Leafly, and broadcast on the syndicated public radio show The Splendid Table.

View Ed Murrieta's articles

  • Jeffrey

    I just wanna know if it did what the senator said he thought it would do in the weekend.

  • Gary Craig

    Okay, so Nevada voters voted on this in November 2016, and by July 2017 it’s up & running. Hmmm. Maryland!?!!! Call Nevada and ask them how they did it so fast. They did it in 6 months. You, Maryland, haven’t done it in almost 4 years!! Call them!!!!!

    • 360dunk

      Before you over-congratulate us, Nevada voters also approved medical marijuana in the year 2000 and it took some 15 YEARS for the politicians to get it up and running. The interviewee, Leslie Bocskor, left that detail out.

  • Shawnbernard

    Hit me up for hook up 307-223-4060

    • FlunkedAgain

      DEA entrapment?

    • 360dunk

      I called that number and a female asked me if I wanted phone $ex. She sounded like she was 90. Your grandma?

  • David

    Best Regulatory Framework in the World? Really? I find this funny as there have been multiple issues with Patient Privacy and Data Protection… Sounds to me like ArcView is trying to keep MJ Freeway from being dumped in Nevada since their little data breach snafu! I am seriously baffled at the fact that no one… and I mean NO ONE… is reporting on the issue of MJ Freeway’s Leaf Data Systems, which was hacked and there are people posting their recovery database, source code, and other patient information on bit-torrent sites like ThePirateBay. Recently, a slew of licensed dispensaries received an email asking if owners would like to purchase roughly 56,000 patient records from Leaf Data Systems through a bitcoin purchase for $300. (See the link below on Cannabis Industry Journal) It seems a little coincidental that Leslie Bocskor would make these kinds of claims considering that ArcView, MPP and other large influential organizations (NCIA and others that will remain nameless) are all in bed with Freeway… again… do your research and look between the lines. Check these very interesting articles and decide for yourself… and don’t forget to read the comments!

    MJ Freeway’s Lack Of Security Competence Spells Trouble For PA’s Confidential Patient and Business Data
    JUNE 30, 2017
    Call it a hack. Call it an attack. Call it a breach. MJ Freeway is running out of spin these days

    In case you aren’t familiar, MJ Freeway was selected by the PA Department of Health to exclusively provide “seed-to-sale” software for the Medical Marijuana Program.

    This new breed of software is typically required by state governments in order to keep the feds from storming dispensaries in states that have legalized marijuana. Basically, MJ Freeway’s software allows the state to monitor where the marijuana is, who is buying it, how much, etc. You know, because it might get on the streets.

    MJ Freeway also provides ERP-type software for marijuana businesses, though no one uses it. Not a soul.

    In any case, MJ Freeway’s systems have been penetrated twice this year. The first one you can read about in one of our earlier posts. We essentially wondered why our state officials would choose a software vendor that was hacked during the bidding process, and chalked it up to an insane connection between MJ Freeways investors and marijuana lobbyists.

    The latest gaffe takes a much more serious turn. Aaron Biros from Cannabis Industry Journal was one of few to report this month that MJ Freeway had been “compromised” yet again.

    Portions of MJ Freeway’s source code were reportedly stolen and posted in Reddit threads as well as on Gitlab, a source code hosting website. On June 15th, the account “MJFreeway Open Source” was made on Gitlab.com, and portions of the source code were posted, but have since been taken down.

    Of course, MJ Freeway was quick to respond with all the right answers:

    “Last week we discovered that someone had obtained an outdated portion of MJ Freeway’s source code. This incident has absolutely no impact on our systems or MJ Freeway services, and client and patient data is not at risk. While this theft poses no risk to our clients, patients, or business operations, we take any incident involving unauthorized access very seriously and have reported it to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

    Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that our competitors are spreading inaccurate information about the incident, including baseless claims about SSL info and the potential for client data being compromised – neither of which is true. We encourage our customers to contact us directly with any questions they may have.”

    To be clear, we don’t believe they have ever referred a case to the CBI (which we will gladly retract in the event that they reveal the results of the last investigation) Alas, due to the sheer volume of emails we’ve received on this matter, we figured that it was time to drop some knowledge on ya. They lyin.

    We have now received multiple confirmations that unscrupulous actors are indeed selling real patient and business data that was extracted from dispensaries operating in Nevada, where MJ Freeway also holds a state software contract. Dispensaries are reportedly receiving emails like this:

    ————————————————————————————————————————————

    for sale: nevada customers tables

    greetings we have great offer for you! thanks to site for post all code, we have obtain all data. you will find 2000 records of sample attached for your pleasure and trust. In total there is 56 thousands patient customers records to be paid for by you. we also has all records from sql table other than customers — strains, sales, plants, batches, areas and many more to list.

    we think customers most value as u will grow you’re customers faster by reach out to already customers at other places. as you see also, we work with other group to add more better data. they help us clean, make data pretty and add more datas that are important. also….if u want user passwords to site……we have this too and if u want this we wont tell..we promise 🙂 🙂 🙂

    all datas freshly download today 26.06.2017.

    if u are interest plz write back and we work together for deal. we accept only bitcoin!!

    Hearsay? Tell that to Brian Staffa, who’s had a firsthand look at the “records of sample”:

    I have vetted the comment, and have seen the 2000 patient “sample list” and unfortunately it’s all very real.

    Surely our state officials won’t stand behind THIS decision, right?

  • David
  • David

    Seems that Leafly does not want to approve my comment regarding the issues with Nevada’s regulatory system. They have deemed my comments as spam in what I can only assume is an attempt to protect other organizations that pay them lots of money. Funny how that works. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d67ce8c643fdcec141ea03e69cb7da07714457e089f0acd9583d61fa2f0590df.png

  • Lundar206

    Better late than never. Vegas is awesome if you don’t mind brain melting heat, thousands of drunken A HOLES and oddly enough the city smells like piss all day long. $600 fine for public consumption? Another Vegas racket like gambling. Suckas. Seattle fine for public use…. $27