- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette. Aug. 3, 2017.

Coming into Arkansas on an interstate from Texas or Louisiana usually means putting on the brakes.

That’s because those states to the West and South allow a higher maximum speed limit on freeways than Arkansas.

Come back from Shreveport on Interstate 49 and as soon as you cross the line, the speed limit drops from 75 mph to 70.

In Texas, speeds limits on some stretches of highway (though not around here) can reach 85 mph. Get used to that and Arkansas roads can be slow-going indeed.

But motorists in a hurry could soon get a bit of leeway. Let us emphasize that word “could.” As of Aug. 1, a new law went into effect raising Arkansas’ maximum speed limit to 75 mph.

But don’t go putting the pedal to the metal anytime soon. You might be in a hurry but state highway officials aren’t.

You see, the law doesn’t require the 75 mph limit. It only allows it and leaves implementation up to the discretion of the Arkansas Department of Transportation_the new, slightly shorter name that also went into effect Tuesday for what was known as Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. (The department got a new logo, too. Your tax dollars at work.)

In a written statement, the DOT said it “is undertaking a study to evaluate speed limits on all state highways to determine appropriate speeds. No decisions have been made at this point to increase speed limits anywhere in the state.” So, it’s possible some stretches of Arkansas highways could see a higher limit and it’s just as possible the limit will stay the same throughout the state. We just have to wait and see.

The Insurance Industry Institute for Highway Safety says higher speed limits mean an increase in accidents and highway fatalities, even on adjacent roads without the higher limits. We can see the argument against higher speed limits. After all, Arkansas is a mountainous state with a lot of twisty and turns on the highway system, not like Texas, for example, where long stretches of flat, fairly straight roads are not uncommon and where higher speeds are manageable.

Still, we have to think there must be some stretches in Arkansas (say from here to Little Rock, construction permitting) where the limit could be increased safely. The Legislature certainly seems to feel that way. And we are sure many in the public would welcome the 75 mph limit.

Just don’t get in a hurry for it to happen. The higher limit will likely remain more theory than fact for a long time to come.


Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Aug. 6, 2017.

Arkansas continues its march toward becoming a place where marijuana is no longer treated, at least exclusively, as an illicit drug. Whether that’s good or not so good depends on whom you ask.

The drug remains on the federal list of controlled substances, along with ecstasy, LSD, heroin, cocaine and all those extensively tested and researched medicines only doctors are allowed to prescribe and pharmacies are authorized to dole out.

But state by state, those who would like to use, cultivate or sell marijuana are benefiting from a shift in attitudes. The drug, more or less, is going through a rebranding. Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Massachusetts and Maine have laws allowing recreational use of the drug. Another 20 have passed laws allowing marijuana’s use in one form or another for medical purposes.

Arkansas is among the latter group. Voters last November approved Issue No. 6, which defined 17 medical conditions for which medical marijuana can be used. According to that measure, before a person could get a medical marijuana card from the Arkansas Department of Health, a doctor had to confirm the patient has one of those conditions and declare in writing that “the potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the qualifying patient.”

There’s still understandable uneasiness in the medical community about what role doctors should play in the state’s new pot industry. Evidence of that arose in the General Assembly’s legislative session a few months ago. State Rep. Doug House, concerned doctors would be uncomfortable determining what the potential effects of marijuana might be for their patients, introduced a bill to eliminate the required declaration about potential benefits and risks. That’s now law and the only requirement for doctors is to verify a patient has one of the qualifying conditions.

In a recent Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story, some physicians still expressed hesitation, and who can blame them? Arkansas’ voter-created medical marijuana system, when compared to prescribing federally approved pharmaceuticals to a patient, has about as much precision as using a globe to give a motorist directions to get from Dickson Street to Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

Doctors give patients prescriptions that are limited by both time and dosage, requiring their return for additional evaluation to monitor the medicine’s effects. With medical marijuana, the doctor’s role ends once he declares the patient has a qualifying condition. And there will be no assurance, as there is with FDA-approved drugs, that marijuana sold one day has the same potency as a batch sold a week later. Or that one delivery system for marijuana will have the same benefits as another. Patients can spin the reefer roulette wheel.

We’re not arguing against medical marijuana. The public made that decision, and so be it. But no one should equate the precision of the doctor/pharmacist/drug manufacturer/FDA system to the, shall we say, laid-back business of over-the-counter pot dispensaries.

Advocates for medical marijuana hope family doctors will get on board. One called it a “tragedy” if they won’t help patients get marijuana.

But physicians should not feel pressured to participate if they don’t want to become part of a political, not medical, creation. There will be doctors who embrace a role in getting their patients marijuana. One described it as “legitimate health care.” Other physicians should not feel obliged to recommend something they’re uncomfortable with when they feel an obligation for the care of their patients just as strongly as a doctor who will support medical marijuana.


Doctors should be free to participate, or not, in the state’s voter-created system for medical marijuana.


Southwest Times Record. Aug. 6, 2017.

The Unexpected recently wrapped up its third year in Fort Smith. And while the event is over, the “forgotten spaces” it helped to transform remain, here to co-exist with the other things Fort Smith is well known for.

Artists from all over the world spent more than a week in our city taking part in the event, which since its inception has brought international attention to the area. Fort Smith has been mentioned in the same breath as cities like New York and Paris, France, where the visiting artists have created other works. During The Unexpected, artists set up shop downtown and in other locations and set to work on larger-than-life projects, both permanent and temporary.

But the artwork done in Fort Smith isn’t just downtown or in other places visible to the public. The walls at the Juvenile Detention Center, for example, were transformed this year from “depressing, drab, pale olive green” to a piece of art with a theme of “Still I Rise,” appropriate and inspirational for the location. The project was the brainchild of recent members of Leadership Fort Smith, and even Gov. Asa Hutchinson made a point to stop by.

“When they came out here, it was just dull walls - nothing to look forward to,” Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said during a presentation at the facility. “But I mean, just walking in you can tell this is something they will look forward to - coming out and seeing these colors rather than gray walls of the jail.”

The juveniles at the facility were so interested in the project, in fact, that one of them who was released before The Unexpected wanted to come back to see the finished project.

Other locations where new artwork exists include The New Theater, an Art Nouveau playhouse at 9 N. 10th St. that has not been open to the public in more than 30 years.

The art created during The Unexpected isn’t for everyone. But then again, that’s the way art is. You either like it or you don’t. And if you don’t appreciate the art, that’s OK, but surely you can appreciate that the event brings both attention and opportunity to Fort Smith.

The Unexpected offers a chance for students from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, as well as Northside and Southside high schools, to put their own touches on things that will be seen and remembered for years to come. It also opened the doors for others to volunteer and get involved.

Fort Smith can’t be OK with allowing itself to be defined by one thing, whether it’s the city’s “old west” history or something else. It must be proud of its diversity, and allowing artists to come into the city to create something new in these “forgotten spaces” creates an opportunity for tourism and exposure to a new audience who can learn what Fort Smith is all about. Truly, Fort Smith can be “Where the New South Meets the Old West.”

“I have to say, when I’m walking around downtown Fort Smith for seven days straight, and I see people outside with their families, I see people of all ages, all demographics are out enjoying it,” Claire Kolberg, The Unexpected’s director, said on the event’s last day. “That, to me, is an absolute huge sign of success.”

You may not like the art or understand it, but what it reflects is Fort Smith’s openness to things outside of what some have come to expect from our city, and we appreciate The Unexpected for opening those doors for both current and future generations.

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