Even though marijuana remains illegal in Wisconsin on April 20, the national holiday for marijuana consumers, Janesvillians can buy a derivative of cannabis called CBD at local businesses.
Businesses say CBD, or cannabidiol, is legal to sell and consume thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill and other legal changes over the years.
But laws on CBD remain hazy.
Marijuana remains illegal in 40 states, and the federal government classifies it as a Schedule I narcotic alongside heroin and methamphetamine.
Ten states and Washington, D.C., have fully legalized marijuana for recreational use, and 33 states have legalized some forms of medical marijuana.
CBD is a cannabis extract that does not get people high. However, some CBD products can contain trace amounts of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the mind-altering compound responsible for that high feeling.
Consumers of CBD say the compound is a natural medicine that alleviates anxiety, chronic pain and inflammation. Multiple studies have shown CBD effectively treats epilepsy.
At Basics Co-op, 1711 Lodge Drive, several shelves display CBD products, including oil and infused chocolate, water, gummies and ice cream.
Aaron Aegerter, supplements manager at Basics, said the store began selling CBD products about two years ago. CBD suppliers have provided legal paperwork for Basics, assuring the products are legal, he said.
Aegerter said CBD sales have surged, and it is the most-sold supplement in the store. Basics even sells its own brand of CBD oil made from industrial hemp grown in Colorado.
“The boom of this product is quite amazing,” Aegerter said. “It’s getting a lot of great feedback from people that use it. … A lot of our customers are senior citizens and folks that probably never thought they’d be using the devil weed.”
CBD is legal, the thinking goes, if it is extracted from legal hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which means that it is no longer an illegal substance under federal law.
Hemp is a form of cannabis, and any derivatives of cannabis with 0.3% or less of THC are legal under the law. Many interpret that to mean CBD is legal if it contains 0.3% or less of THC and is made from hemp. Marijuana is a different strain of cannabis with much higher levels of THC.
The state Department of Justice did not respond to multiple calls and emails from The Gazette requesting clarification on Wisconsin’s CBD laws.
Under state law, people may possess CBD oil only with a physician’s certification. Gov. Tony Evers has proposed allowing Wisconsin residents to buy and use CBD oil without a prescription.
Basics does not require customers to have a prescription to buy CBD products. Aegerter said the store will not sell those products to customers younger than 18 years old.
Before the 2018 Farm Bill, some Wisconsin farmers were permitted to grow industrial hemp through a hemp pilot program.
Former Attorney General Brad Schimel sent mixed messages on the legality of CBD oil last year.
Last April, he issued a memo denouncing the retail distribution of CBD oil, writing that people may posses it only if it’s prescribed by a physician.
He later reversed course, advising law enforcement officials not to take action against products made from legal industrial hemp, including CBD, until “Congress considers changes to the law, enabling the Wisconsin state Legislature to further clarify the status of these products.”
Aegerter said Basics has not interacted with local law enforcement about selling CBD products. More uniform laws around CBD could be a benefit for business, he said.
“It (would allow) myself to feel more confident that, in my discussions with customers or people that are looking for help, that this isn’t a thing they’re going to find off the market soon,” he said. “They know there’s going to be longevity with it.”
Businesses across Wisconsin and the country have been selling CBD products for years. National burger chain Carl’s Jr. recently unveiled a 4/20-themed CBD burger, and multiple breweries have started infusing brews with CBD.
“I don’t see ... anything but growth for this plant’s properties,” Aegerter said. “... The trends show that it’s just starting to grow. You may find it like aspirin.”
Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore remembers the talk of school lockdown drills in response to the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.
“That was offensive to me that our nation had come to that point, that we needed to teach kids how to handle a shooting,” Moore recalled. “But today it’s so commonplace that no one thinks twice about it.”
Twenty years after two students killed 12 fellow students and a teacher in the Littleton, Colorado, school, local schools and police are spending a lot of time and money in hopes of stopping a similar attack here in southern Wisconsin—or at least limiting the deaths.
Jerry Schuetz was a school resource officer in Appleton at the time of the Columbine attack. He later became police chief and then school district spokesman in Milton.
“‘I’m going to kill you after school’ usually meant a fight on the playground,” Schuetz recalled. “After Columbine, it really caused us to reflect … on what law enforcement needed to do in response to active shooters.”
Moore’s approach is to assume it will happen here someday, even though the odds of it happening here are small.
“I think that gives some urgency to our training, and it keeps our efforts fresh,” Moore said.
Police are training to respond faster than officers at Columbine, and schools are teaching staff how to staunch the bleeding from gunshot wounds.
Janesville police have provided radios to the public and religious schools so school staff can call police directly, without going through 911, in case of a shooter. The idea is to shave seconds off the police response.
The radios are to be used only for an imminent threat, said Brian Donohoue, a former Janesville police sergeant who is now a part-time security consultant for the Janesville School District—a job that didn’t exist before Columbine.
Moore noted schools check the radios monthly. He said it gives him comfort to hear the radio checks on his scanner.
Moore’s department offers regular training to surrounding jurisdictions. They arrange for use of a school, theater or other large building and practice the scenario: What if someone was inside shooting people?
The big lesson of Columbine was that the first officers to arrive waited for the SWAT team before going in. Now, police around the country are taught to get into the building as soon as possible to stop the shooting and—hopefully—save lives.
It’s all about time. A person with a semi-automatic weapon can inflict dozens of wounds in 60 seconds.
“Columbine showed us to wait for SWAT meant many people would die,” Moore said.
At a recent training for Blackhawk Technical College police academy students, a trainer critiqued a run-through, telling students they can’t wait. They have to push forward, even when they are under fire.
“We have methods that keep us as safe as we can be, but it’s still a dangerous call,” Moore said. “We push our folks to crush that threat.”
Communications are key. But Janesville police found massive concrete structures degraded their radio signals. They searched for years for the right solution, Donohoue said.
Janesville high schools were recently outfitted with signal amplifiers, and the middle schools should have the same equipment installed by June, thanks to state grants of around $300,000, Donohoue said.
Other changes since Columbine:
All tablets and computers used by Janesville School District students have the P3 Tips app, so students can anonymously report students who might be depressed, bullying, fights planned or other signals of impending trouble.
Another lesson from many school shootings: Someone knew something that could have helped avert tragedy, if only it had been reported.
The Milton School District has a similar program, called ALICE, for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.
Janesville detectives will wake up people in the middle of the night to check out a threat, Moore said. If a student who might be a threat has access to firearms, police will ask parents for permission to remove them from the home.
At the same time, officials must remember: “These are children with developing brains, and they might say something with no intent to harm anyone,” Schuetz said. “… So don’t over-criminalize behavior.”
The Janesville School District says in a training video that it responds quickly to such behavior and teaches by example that students should be inclusive and caring.
Schuetz said authorities must walk a thin line between preparing students for potential danger while not making them overly fearful.
It’s like “stop, drop and roll” training for fires, Schuetz said: Although statistically it’s unlikely to happen, people should be prepared in the event it happens to them.
Janet G. Larson
Donald Edward Poppie
Marlene Elizabeth Straight
Investigators found no direct evidence former UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper knew about her husband’s “pervasive and well-known” sexual harassment, but in a report released Friday they also said it was “at best” a “blindspot” for her.
The investigators, while also saying there was no direct evidence she obstructed the investigation or retaliated against women who made allegations against her husband, Alan “Pete” Hill, list reports from witnesses that investigators say raise questions about her handling of the situation and her overall leadership ability, according to documents obtained by The Gazette through an open records request.
Kopper resigned as chancellor Dec. 31, months after UW System President Ray Cross banned Hill from campus for repeated claims of sexual harassment.
The most recent investigation opened after news of a 2018 investigation became public in the fall. The new report identified at least seven—and possibly up to 10—women who claimed Hill sexually harassed them. Three of the women were identified in earlier investigations.
Kopper in a December letter to Cross said she knew the UW System Board of Regents “would like different leadership.” In a statement Friday, the system said Cross, “counseled Chancellor Kopper to resign.”
Cheryl Green has been serving as interim chancellor, and the committee charged with finding Kopper’s replacement has a goal to make its decision by June 1.
Kopper said as recently as Jan. 26 she planned to return to the classroom in the fall, teaching in UW-W’s psychology department. The teaching salary listed for her in UW System documents—$118,308—would be about 50 percent more than the department’s chair.
Kopper has been on paid leave since her resignation on her chancellor salary of $242,760.
Although investigators requested to talk to him, Hill was not interviewed as part of the newest investigation. He has previously denied the allegations against him.
While the investigators said there was no direct evidence Kopper retaliated against women who made accusations against her husband, they found “some after-the-fact anecdotal evidence” suggesting otherwise.
A woman who was still employed at UW-W “could have suffered an employment consequence (directed by Chancellor Kopper) which may have been motivated in part because of the employee’s interactions with Hill,” the investigators wrote.
Kopper directed Judi Trampf, formerly the head of human resources, to fire the woman, “an action that Trampf thought was unwarranted and excessive.”
The woman did not have discipline on her record and termination for the offense in question was not the typical response.
With the benefit of hindsight, Trampf believed Kopper’s actions “could have been motivated, in part,” by the woman’s interactions with Hill, the report states.
The woman declined to tell investigators about Hill’s sexual harassment. She previously told another employee about it when they were traveling, according to the report.
In the absence of direct evidence, investigators found at least the perception of retaliation for what was going on in Kopper’s “blindspot.”
And that affected the culture of studying and working at the university—some employees tried to “protect” one another from Hill, according to the report.
“When the Chancellor’s husband is involved, it’s difficult,” one witness said.
Kopper told investigators she was “very upset” when she finally talked to Hill about the allegations, but she “accepted his answer” when he denied them. “When I look at all the back story on each allegation … it did not connect,” Kopper is quoted as saying in the report.
“Kopper readily and uncritically accepted Hill’s denials,” the investigators wrote.
Part of the reason Kopper told investigators she did not ask much about Hill’s conduct was because, “I kept my Chancellor’s hat on.”
But the investigators said they were not aware of any time Kopper acknowledged the impact her husband’s actions had on employees or students.
“During the interview she commented only on the effect it has had on her,” the report states.
Investigators called it “noteworthy” that Kopper took nearly three months to tell the campus about the report that led Cross to ban Hill from campus in June. She also took nearly three weeks to acknowledge Cross’ letter.
She sent an announcement to campus Sept. 14, the morning the system released documents to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The investigation went beyond Hill’s actions and what the university knew about it to examine the school’s culture and Kopper’s leadership style.
Multiple witnesses said Kopper would yell at her employees and become red in the face. Deans would’“regularly” leave these meetings when Kopper was in an “emotional state,” according to the report.
Some referred to the meetings as “floggings.”
Kopper denied being intemperate, the report states.
At least four witnesses said Kopper would micromanage, such as needing to approve the hiring of custodians. This caused delays at times because Kopper often traveled, according to the report.
Two witnesses who prepared and presented budgets to Kopper said they did not think she understood those documents, the report states. For example, she did not get why they needed to make plans to get funding for repairs to campus buildings.
One witness from the budget office said Kopper’s budget was “in the red, including operational, travel and furniture,” the report states.
“The witness did not know where the money came from or went to,” the investigators wrote. “This is a claim that was not investigated as it was beyond our charge, but which we felt ought be reported.”
Since Kopper took over as chancellor in July 2015, the university has lost several senior administrators.
It’s possible, the report states, these employees simply left for better jobs—which could reflect positively on Kopper.
Witnesses told investigators when Kopper took over she brought changes and that change can be challenging.
One witness said, however, he or she left because of frustrations with Kopper.
“The greatest hindrance to change was either the Chancellor’s lack of trust or her need for power,” one witness said.
Not every witness criticized Kopper’s leadership style—three members of her cabinet offered praise.
One said Kopper was “thoughtful” and expects employees to “do the right thing,” according to the report. Another said she was a “phenomenal leader.”
“UWW is a healthy campus and expectations are high,” another said.
The Gazette is aware of several recent or upcoming changes at the university:
There is “credible evidence” Hill sexually harassed both employees and students—most of the time on campus or related properties, such as the chancellor’s residence during events, investigators wrote.
Two employees said Hill made statements “laden with sexual innuendo that made them feel uncomfortable and violated,” the report states. The two felt reporting the chancellor’s husband’s behavior would put them in an “untenable position.”
One woman said Hill in 2015 reached under her skirt and touched her sexually while hugging her.
Hill grabbed one woman with both hands and demanded she kiss him, according to the report. Although she did not report the incident, Hill would make requests of her and say something to the effect of, “that’s what the Chancellor wants.”
One person told investigators Hill said, “I am very attracted to you, but you probably already know that.”
Investigators did not find evidence Hill completed sexual harassment training in his mostly ceremonial role as “associate to the chancellor,” although he was supposed to.
One witness said he sought through the “intervention of the chancellor’s office” an exemption from such a training, and human resources removed him from the list.
Kopper told investigators she did not know if Hill completed any training.
She, according to the investigation, perceived the allegations against Hill to be retaliation against her.
“I married him for his heart,” Kopper said, according to the report. “There are so many things that I know ... it doesn’t compute.”
Witnesses also said Hill “had an outsized influence in the Athletic Department,” at times invoking his wife’s name to advance projects he supported, according to the report.
One witness said Hill would regularly meet with male coaches, such as for meals or drinks, but did not do the same for female coaches.
The UW System released a statement Friday and said it would not comment further:
“When allegations of sexual misconduct were identified at UW-Whitewater, President Ray Cross immediately called for investigations and aggressively acted upon information. After he was briefed on the findings of this report, he counseled Chancellor Kopper to resign. She did, and the report speaks for itself.”
Green, the interim chancellor, in an announcement to campus on Friday said:
“The release of these documents may cause concern and I understand this may be a difficult time for some of you. As our university navigates this situation, I hope we can focus our attention on moving forward and the healing process for all concerned.”