Splash Guard. Some common sense returns to wetlands regulation. (See "The Swamp Thing," Apr.) Under a new federal definition, wetlands must pass three tests. The soil must be peat or other mucky stuff. The land has to be flooded for at least 14 straight days during the growing season. And over half the vegetation must be wetland plants. The rules could be stricter, but give a tentative thumbs up to property owners.
Good Drugs. In a Harvard survey, 48 percent of U.S. cancer specialists say they'd prescribe marijuana to relieve their patients' nausea from chemotherapy; another 30 percent would consider it. Forty-four percent said they've already recommended pot to patients. And a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ordered the Drug Enforcement Agency to reconsider marijuana's medicinal value. If cancer patients can get morphine, why not pot?
Smog Futures. Southern California's South Coast Air Quality Management District designs the country's first market for clean air. In lieu of other regulations, the AQMD will set caps on how much pollution each business can emit. Companies can then cut smog any way they choose, or buy extra "shares" from lower-polluting firms. Pat Nemeth, the AQMD's person in charge, says share trading could start within two years.
Touch Someone. Coming soon: local telephone competition. The Federal Communications Commission may force the local monopolies to give alternate carriers access to their switching facilities. Chairman Alfred Sikes cites "an FCC commitment to reducing barriers to competition." Thanks, Mr. Chairman—now what about cable TV?
Running on Empty. To prevent leaks from fuel tanks, new EPA regulations force every gas station to carry at least $1 million in insurance. The premiums alone exceed the money many small stations generate from gas sales. The agency predicts half the gas stations in the country will close by October. And in some rural states, 70 percent will close, forcing residents to drive 50 miles or more to fill up.
48 Hours. Reversing centuries of common-law tradition, the Supreme Court rules that the police can jail suspects and hold them without a warrant for up to 48 hours—longer on weekends and holidays. Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia says 24 hours is plenty of time to hold someone uncharged. And, Scalia notes, the Constitution isn't suspended after 5 p.m. and on weekends.
Walled Up. A California judge says murals are protected by an artists'-rights law. (See "Postmodern Art Laws," May 1990.) A muralist who got $4,000 to paint a Shell station wall wants $125,000 in damages because the station was sold and leveled. UCLA law professor Stephen Urice says graffiti may be protected next. Seriously.
Yew Cad! The drug some call the most promising new chemotherapy in a decade gets stalled by the greens. Taxol has reduced tumors in both breast-cancer and ovarian-cancer patients. But it comes from the Pacific yew tree—home to spotted owls. Viros want to keep yew trees uncut. A spokesman for the company developing the drug told The Wall Street Journal, "There are people prepared to let women die to save trees."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Balance Sheet".