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Author: Wisconsin Watch

Statistics show Blacks in Wisconsin arrested for marijuana possession 4x more often than whites

During Wisconsin’s 2018 midterm election, which saw a record-breaking turnout, it was not the close gubernatorial race that motivated Milwaukee resident Marlon Rockett to cast an early ballot. It was the county’s non-binding referendum on whether recreational use of marijuana should be legalized. Racial equity is a top reason why Rockett favors legalization, which 70% of Milwaukee County voters also supported. Rockett, who co-hosts a podcast on issues affecting the black community, said laws against marijuana are a “tool that’s used to help hold everyday Americans back.” And the enforcement of these laws, Rockett said, is largely concentrated on...

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State regulators refuse to intervene in challenge between energy monopoly and solar company

As solar energy has become more popular and cost-effective, this once fringe renewable source is now at the center of an energy turf war in Wisconsin. At issue is a project in which an Iowa-based renewables company wants to partner with the city of Milwaukee to power seven municipal buildings with solar. Eagle Point Solar would help to finance the city’s project, taking advantage of federal tax breaks that local governments do not qualify for. Eagle Point is suing the public utility, We Energies, for refusing to connect a series of solar arrays to each other. We Energies says...

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Promise to reduce Wisconsin’s prison population faces numerous political hurdles

Governor Tony Evers is considering enacting an obscure 30-year-old early release program and halting re-incarceration of offenders for rule violations to reduce Wisconsin’s growing prison population. Governor Evers has expressed optimism about his ability to accomplish a major campaign promise: to reduce by 50 percent the state’s prison population, which is on course to hit an all-time high of 25,000 inmates by 2021. While 31 states saw decreases in their prison populations from 2017 to 2018, Wisconsin is not one of them. Currently, Wisconsin’s prison system is 33 percent above capacity, with 18 of the state’s 20 adult prisons...

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Wisconsin fish are experiencing a roller coaster of methylmercury levels due to climate change

Two researchers trudged on snowshoes through feet of snow on a wooded trail this past March, dragging a small plastic sled full of equipment. The snowshoes of scientist Carl Watras were rigged with rubber from bicycle tires to bind the webbed contraptions to his feet. His research assistant, Jeff Rubsam, ran ahead to guide the sled down a steep, snowy slope towards a frozen lake. Watras descended, planting one long leg slowly after another. Watras has been making this trek for 32 years. He studies how the neurotoxin mercury accumulates in lakes and in Wisconsin’s fish. Watras and Rubsam...

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Immigrants to Wisconsin without lawyers often remain stuck in a purgatory of detention

After analyzing data of Wisconsin residents with cases beginning between 2010 and 2015, it was found that those who had lawyers were more than six times as likely to be allowed to stay in the country as those without. Nearly 55% of those with lawyers were allowed to stay compared to 9% of immigrants without lawyers. Nationally, the picture is similar: Immigrants without lawyers had an average success rate of less than 8%. Cases that began since 2015 were omitted from the analysis because so many of them have not yet been decided. Aissa Olivarez works for the Community...

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The Cannabis Question: Marijuana advocates in Wisconsin face legalization hurdles

Public support for cannabis is growing, but GOP lawmakers mostly oppose the plan by Governor Tony Evers to legalize medical cannabis and possession of small amounts. Gary Storck has been here before. For decades, Storck, a longtime medical marijuana advocate from Madison, has been pushing the state Legislature to legalize his medicine. Storck suffers from glaucoma. He uses cannabis to slow progression of the disease, which is gradually robbing him of his sight. The first big moment was in 2002, when statewide polling found that 80.3 percent of Wisconsinites supported medical marijuana. Storck was ecstatic. When he first heard...

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