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Hemp industry on the rise; paint companies on trial; frac sand industry slumps

Of note: This week we highlight one of our own stories, reported by University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism student Ellie Colbert. The story examines Wisconsin’s rapidly growing industrial hemp industry, which was legalized in 2018. Some hemp farmers say they are learning to cultivate the cannabis sativa plant — which is in the same family as marijuana — in anticipation of possible legalization in Wisconsin. The report is part of The Cannabis Question series, written and reported by a UW-Madison investigative journalism class led by Wisconsin Watch Managing Editor Dee J. Hall.

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Wisconsin’s new hemp industry blooms; will marijuana be far behind?

Wisconsin Watch — May 12, 2019

Wisconsin’s climate and farming industry make it an ideal environment for growing hemp, according to Irwin Goldman, professor and chairman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Horticulture. Some hemp license holders say they are growing the plant now in anticipation of legalization of marijuana in Wisconsin, which is gaining support from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the public. Previously from Wisconsin Watch: Marijuana advocates have hope but face hurdles as Wisconsin eyes legalization

Paint companies on trial again under unique Wisconsin law aimed at childhood lead poisoning

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — May 11, 2019

Three young men from Milwaukee were introduced in a packed federal courtroom this week as victims of lead poisoning from paint dust in the homes where they lived as toddlers. The trial is the renewal of a legal quest begun 20 years ago. The companies say everyone knew lead was dangerous for centuries, but not until more recently did anyone fully understand that children could be poisoned by the dust from decaying paint in and around old homes. (Note: Ralph Weber, president of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism board, is an attorney in the case.) Previously from Wisconsin Watch: Secret cash aided politicians who rewrote Wisconsin law to block claims of lead-poisoned children

Frac sand producer In Wisconsin faces bankruptcy as industry shifts

Wisconsin Public Radio — May 13, 2019

An industry analyst says up to 75 percent of mines in Wisconsin that supply oil and gas producers might have to close due to an ongoing oversupply of sand. Emerge Energy Services LP, which owns Superior Silica Sands, entered into a debt restructuring agreement with its lenders in April. Samir Nangia, the director of energy consulting at analytics firm IHS Markit, said he expects more mines in Wisconsin will be forced to close temporarily, but some companies may decide to leave the state entirely. Previously from Wisconsin Watch: Wisconsin’s sand rush

Could Wisconsin’s voter turnout be higher than ever in 2020? All the ingredients are there

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — May 15, 2019

The presidency of Donald Trump is shaping up as a spectacular mobilizing force for both the right and the left. Nationally, the 2018 election saw the highest midterm turnout in more than a century. In Wisconsin, almost 62% of eligible voters went to the polls last fall, a level rarely reached by any state in a modern-day midterm election — and higher than the nationwide turnout for president in 2016. In recent interviews, strategists and pollsters in Wisconsin on both sides said they believed turnout in 2020 would exceed 2016.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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