Roundup of Arkansas editorials

By By The Associated Press

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Jan. 6, 2014

Rocky Mountain high

A couple of groups are said to be working on getting a medical marijuana law on the books in Arkansas — again. The last effort was barely defeated at the polls. But the fight ain't over.

You'll remember that's how it all started in Colorado: with medical marijuana. You know, just to be humane to those who are ill and need the "medication." Never mind that the drug in weed that can help folks ease the pain of some diseases can be found in a pill and distributed by legal pharmacists. But few really thought that those pushing marijuana would stop at its "medical uses." It's all about complete legalization. Always has been.

After Colorado legalized medical marijuana, it wasn't long before the state legalized pot for recreational use, at least for those over 21. Then just last month the city council in Denver decided that the law wasn't fair to 18-year-olds and is still considering whether to lower the age restrictions in the city limits. Wow. Talk about a slippery slope. Call it a dead drop off a cliff.

It's always a good idea to read the news coming out of Colorado when it comes to the legalization of marijuana. The better to arm yourself when those outfits in Arkansas start knocking on your door, wanting you to sign a petition in favor of medical marijuana.

Here's more news off the COLO wire: Some rehab centers in Colorado are prepping for an increase in patients.

Teenaged patients.

How can that be? The law is the law, and it says young people can't have . .

Yeah, right. They also can't drink booze, either, but somehow kids get into the liquor cabinet. If it's around, the kids will get into the stash. And in Colorado these days, pot is around. It's all over the place.

The papers quoted a Dr. Christian Thurstone, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado. He's also the head of a teen rehab center. He says 95 percent of the referrals to his clinic — for teens, mind you — is for marijuana use. He's had to double his staff since November, and he still has a waiting list for folks wanting to get in.

ABC News quoted an addictions expert named Ben Court who works at the University of Colorado's Hospital Center for Dependency. He's seen first-hand how teens already dealing with mental illness can be harmed by marijuana, especially the highly potent stuff going around these days. He saw one kid act so crazy he was almost shot by cops.

"For the person on shaky ground, you add this to the equation and it's gas on the fire," Mr. Court said.

Every week, it seems, there is another story or two coming out of Colorado that should scare parents, and everybody else, in this state. It's a drip, drip, drip of scary news. Or make that a toke, toke, toke.

It's bad enough watching what's happening in Colorado. Let's not bring those problems to Arkansas.

Medical marijuana? No thank you please. Some of us still have eyes to see.

___

Southwest Times Record, Jan. 3, 2014

I-540 construction carries area forward

There was a little piece of good news tucked away in our Top 10 stories of the year: Construction along a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 540 between Van Buren and Fort Smith is on schedule for mid-2014 completion.

That's despite an unusually wet summer and fall, according to Jason Hughey, District 4 construction engineer with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, in a report in Monday's edition.

Before the highway rehab project began a year ago, there were serious concerns about moving traffic throughout the region with I-540 seriously restricted or even out of the picture for a year and a half. The highway typically saw 55,000 vehicles per day.

Planning and public education have helped keep people moving pretty well. A couple of accidents in one-lane stretches of highway caused backups, and the new way of entering the highway from on-ramps, often from a dead stop, took some getting used to. On the whole, however, drivers listened to advice to avoid the highway whenever possible without causing gridlock on surface streets.

Kiewit Infrastructure is handling the project, which Mr. Hughey says is 70 percent complete. It involves repaving the driving surface, replacing or modifying 13 bridges and renumbering exits from the Oklahoma state line to Interstate 40.

In November, state Highway Commission Vice Chairman Dick Trammel told the Western Arkansas Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority that the project is the "largest to date single contract the highway department has ever done."

Mr. Trammel predicted at that time that in three years, "Arkansas will probably have the best interstate system in the country."

If true, that will be the result of careful spending by AHTD and the willing participation of voters who in 2011 approved the issuing of GARVEE bonds to fund the Interstate Rehabilitation Project, which is set to rehabilitate 600 miles of interstate highway by 2027, and in 2012 approved a 10-year, half percent sales tax to improve the state's highway system through the Connecting Arkansas Program.

In the meantime, we are content to think about the reopening of closed lanes of I-540 and the opening of what one day will be Interstate 49 across Chaffee Crossing.

Transportation is the key to Fort Smith's future. We're glad to see we're on schedule.

___

Harrison Daily Times, Jan. 6, 2014

Time to shut doors on city jail

Harrison city officials have been put on notice that the city's three-cell jail is out of compliance with any kind of 21st Century standards and the city should consider voluntarily closing the facility.

So why does the Harrison City Council want to put off a decision to close it until the state issues the order to close it or until someone gets hurt and the city is sued for negligence?

The facility was outdated years ago, and today is dangerous to the health and safety of both police officers and prisoners. The stairs leading to it from the first floor are steep and could be difficult for an intoxicated subject to maneuver when said subject must be held until sober.

Those stairs led to an expensive claim against the city's insurance when a former police chief fell down them. Is that hard to understand?

Besides, the jail isn't used very much, so keeping a liability open just doesn't make much sense.

The written warning the city has received is much difference than just knowing you have a dangerous problem. It's now been documented to be "very unsafe" and those kinds of notices are difficult to ignore.

Just imagine the scenario if you have a dog that bites someone. You are liable because of the injury, but imagine potential damages if that dog had been officially labeled a dangerous animal and a nuisance to society.

The city jail is supposed to be studied by a council committee. The next meeting of that committee is set for less than two weeks from today, Thursday, Jan. 16, to be exact.

Let's hope mature minds agree that keeping this old city jail open is a liability none of us want to be liable for.

The city has been put on notice. Let's fix the problem, rather than wait and pass it on to another group of elected officials.

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