Tweet of the Week:
Razorback Nation I reject notion the sky is falling! We are strong & will make changes to become stronger! We will fight we will #Neveryield!
— University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, after the Razorbacks' 35-24 loss to Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 29. In a pattern that's become bitterly familiar to fans, the Hogs led 24-0 at halftime, only to collapse spectacularly in the second half. Best response to Long's rosy outlook, from Twitter user @c0dy_richardson: "@jefflongUA need to change that never yield hashtag. We always yield in the 2nd half under the @BretBielema regime."
The newly created Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission held a series of meetings at the end of December as rule-making deadlines approached. Rules regarding the licensing of cultivation facilities and dispensaries must be in place by March, according to the pro-pot amendment that voters approved in November. So far, the panel has decided to distribute licenses for five cultivation centers (the amendment requires four to eight), each of which will be assigned to one of the five geographic subdivisions drawn by the state Department of Health (Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast and Central).
Cultivator licenses will be limited to those with significant financial means: The application fee alone will be $15,000, with perhaps much larger licensing fees to be determined. The bar for dispensary licenses, of which there will be 20 to 40 statewide, will likely be much lower.
In its first few meetings, the commission also discussed issues such as lab testing of marijuana products, packaging restrictions and security requirements. However, it already may be overstepping its authority. According to Little Rock lawyer David Couch, who authored the amendment, such regulations are up to the health department and the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Department of Finance and Administration, while the commission's authority is strictly limited to licensing. It may not be an intentional power grab, though: There's much confusion about who exactly will do what in regard to the new regulatory regime, and considering several of the commission's five members have no past experience in state government (and were appointed just on Dec. 7), some fumbling is to be expected. Stay tuned.
Gun deaths in Little Rock and around the state
Another young child was slain by gunfire in Little Rock in the final days of the year: On Dec. 17, 3-year-old Acen King was struck by a bullet fired into his grandmother's vehicle by another driver in what police say was "a road rage incident." Gary Holmes, 33, is accused of firing the shot after an exchange of horn honks at an intersection on Mabelvale Cutoff. He has been charged with capital murder.
In November, a 2-year-old child was shot to death in a drive-by shooting in Little Rock's Oak Forest neighborhood; no arrest has yet been made in that case. On Dec. 22, a 9-year-old in Little Rock was fatally wounded in an accident while playing with a handgun. And the state saw four gun homicides on Jan. 2, with a double murder in Fort Smith, one in Faulkner County and one in Pine Bluff, and another on Jan. 3, south of Little Rock.
John Schenck dies
The founder of Arkansas's longest running Pride parade and one of the state's most visible champions of equal rights for LGBT people died last week. In Conway, John Schenck was perhaps best known for the Pink House, the large Victorian home in which he lived and worked with his husband and partner of almost 41 years, Robert Loyd. Loyd died almost exactly a year earlier, on Dec. 30, 2015.
A New York native, Schenck worked the bar during the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots in Manhattan, which launched the gay rights movement in America. He and Loyd moved to Conway in 1978 to care for Loyd's ailing mother. The couple organized the first Conway Pride Parade in 2004 and later joined a lawsuit challenging Arkansas's ban on same-sex marriage. Although they were first legally married in Canada in 2004, Schenck and Loyd were among the first couples in the state to get a marriage license when the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land in 2015.