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Some fans of Trump, pot feel allegiances go up in smoke

PORTLAND, Maine — The Trump administration’s anti-marijuana move has some members of the president’s voting base fuming.

Fans of President Donald Trump who use marijuana say Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move to tighten federal oversight of the drug is the first time they’ve felt let down by the man they helped elect. The move feels especially punitive to Trump voters who work in the growing industry around legalized marijuana that has taken root in states of all political stripes.

It remains to be seen whether Trump’s pot-loving voters will take their anger to the ballot box in 2018 and 2020. But pro-legalization conservatives are also chiding the administration’s anti-pot move as an affront to personal liberties and states’ rights.

“Trump needs to realize that a lot of his supporters are pro-cannabis and it would be extremely hurtful to them if he allowed Sessions to move forward with this,” said Damara Kelso, a Trump voter who runs Sugar Shack Farms, a marijuana grower in Eugene, Oregon. “It’s not lazy pothead stoners smoking weed all day in their parents’ basement.”

Sessions’ move allows federal prosecutors to decide what to do when state rules conflict with federal. It comes as legalization of marijuana is at an all-time high in popularity with Republicans.

A Gallup poll from last year found 51 percent of Republicans expressed support for legalization of the drug. It was the first time a majority of GOP supporters supported the idea and represented a jump of 9 percentage points from the previous year. In the early 2000s, only about one in five Republicans agreed with legalization.

Legalization has also flourished at the state level. Maine, Nevada, Massachusetts and California all voted to make recreational marijuana use legal for adults in 2016. It is also legal in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Washington, D.C. Alaska and Maine gave Trump electoral votes in 2016.

Marijuana legalization is typically most popular with the libertarian-leaning wing of the Republican Party. But any such Republicans who felt Trump would be a pro-marijuana president were misguided, said Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard University economist who studies the economics of libertarianism with a focus on illegal drugs.

Weed-loving Trump fans might be experiencing buyer’s remorse, but it’s too early to say whether that could make a difference at the voting polls, Miron said.

“Libertarians certainly knew when he appointed Jeff Sessions that there was a serious risk in an escalation of the war on drugs,” he said. “I think you get what you pay for.”

Still, some of Trump’s high-profile supporters are criticizing the move.

Roger Stone, a former Trump campaign adviser with whom the president has a long and rocky history, shared a video on Facebook on Jan. 7 urging Trump to support legalization and block Sessions’ move. And some Republicans in Congress have also slammed the decision.

“We have a Constitution to protect people from the federal government,” Republican Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minnesota, a Trump voter, said in an interview. “This is a longstanding limited-government principle.”

Trump fans who use medical marijuana are also concerned they could lose access to treatment. In rural Fryeburg, Maine, college student Zac Mercauto drives two hours roundtrip, he said, to buy marijuana to manage chronic pain and other health problems. He said he would hate to lose that ability to federal politics.

Mercauto is also one of thousands of Mainers who helped give Trump his sole New England electoral vote. Unlike most states, Maine splits its electoral votes by congressional district, and Trump won the vast 2nd District, home to both New England conservatism and a marijuana culture.

Mercauto, who had his picture taken with Trump in 2016, said he is still a big fan of the president. But he believes the anti-pot move is bad for his state’s economy and health.

“I believe it’s going to take a hit at medical marijuana and the industry as a whole here in Maine,” he said. “It’s disappointing to see him take that stab at the industry. And I guarantee you all the tax money the state of Maine from medical marijuana really helps people all around.”


State-and-regional
top story
Largest Nevada casinos profit $1.6B during fiscal year 2017

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada’s largest casinos turned a profit for the second fiscal year in a row and finally broke the revenue record set in 2007 before the recession affected the operators’ books, according to a state report released Friday.

The largest casinos in the state reported income of $1.6 billion from total revenue of $26.2 billion during the fiscal year that ended June 30, data from the Nevada Gaming Control Board show. The reported income from 272 casinos was 59 percent higher compared with the previous fiscal year, while revenue was up 3.7 percent.

“So, 10 years later, we’ve finally surpassed that FY07 revenue amount, and the key driver of that is your non-gaming revenue,” said Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the board. “Gaming revenue has grown, but it’s still well below the peak.”

The comprehensive annual report known as the Gaming Abstract includes data about Nevada casinos that grossed $1 million or more in gambling revenue. It addresses number of employees, room occupancy rates and gambling revenue per square foot of casino space.

The report found that 72.5 percent of total gambling revenue came from 62 casinos owned by publicly traded companies.

Gambling accounted for 42.4 percent of total revenue, down slightly from last year’s 42.6 percent.

“What that means is that rooms, food, beverage and other, that accounted for 57.6 percent of total revenue, which is the highest combined share ever recorded in the abstract,” Lawton said. Fiscal year 2004 “was the last time gaming accounted for greater than 50 percent of the statewide total.”

Lawton said gambling revenue has increased six of the last seven years, reaching $11.1 billion in 2017, but it remains 11 percent below 2007 levels.

The casinos paid $852.2 million in gambling taxes and fees. That’s 7.7 percent of their gambling revenue.

The largest 161 casinos in Clark County, which is Nevada’s most populous and includes Las Vegas, earned $1.4 billion and generated $23.5 billion in total revenue. In Washoe County, which includes Reno, 31 casinos combined to gain $126.5 million on revenue of $1.6 billion.

On the Las Vegas Strip, casinos won $814 million on revenue of $17.8 billion. The profit represented a 191.4 percent increase compared with fiscal year 2016, while revenue was up 3.9 percent.

Lawton said it was the second consecutive fiscal year that the Strip saw income gains after a streak of seven consecutive net losses.

Gambling revenue accounted for only 34 percent of the Strip’s total revenue, marking the 19th year in a row that gambling revenue has made up less than 50 percent of the overall figure.

“It represents the lowest percentage ever recorded,” he said.


State-and-regional
AP
Swarm of nearly 100 small earthquakes shake south Reno

RENO (AP) — A swarm of nearly 100 small earthquakes has been shaking the ground in northern Nevada but experts say they’ve been so tiny most people didn’t even notice.

The University of Nevada, Reno’s Seismological Laboratory say more than 90 events were confirmed on the south edge of town between 10:30 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Friday in an area where the Mount Rose Highway intersects with U.S. Interstate 580.

The largest recorded were four magnitude 2.0 temblors.

There have been no reports of damage and fewer than 40 people have reported feeling them on the lab’s web site.

Ken Smith, the lab’s associate director, says they are monitoring the situation closely and updating local emergency management officials in case the sequence evolves to a larger, damaging earthquake.