Wisconsin’s Medical Hemp Industry

Wisconsin’s Medical Hemp Industry

Abbie and Jody Testaberg have been together since 2010. Abbie, who previously did not approve of her husband’s job as a medical marijuana cooperative in California, until she gave birth to two sons both born with congenital disorders.


Abbie Testaberg began researching alternative treatments in addition to Western medicine. This exploration led Testaberg back to her husband’s previous job — cannabis.


“Thinking about alternative healing and wellness options for my kids opened me to the realities of medical cannabis, which my husband already knew,” Testaberg said. “On the journey, so far, my biggest interest is better understanding the plant and the endocannabinoid system to consider how my children may benefit.”

Now, Testaberg has devoted her career to cannabis, and to the production of one form of the plant — hemp — which recently was legalized in Wisconsin.

Testaberg is an authorized hemp grower and processor in Wisconsin, which launched an industrial hemp pilot program in 2018 and now has more than 2,100 applications for licenses in 2019.

Together the couple has started Whole Plant Technologies.


According to Ellie Colbert, with Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. |


Some hemp license holders are growing the plant now in anticipation of the legalization of marijuana in Wisconsin, which is gaining support from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and a growing numbers of lawmakers. But GOP leaders who run the Legislature plan to strip decriminalization and medical marijuana legalization from Evers’ budget.

In the early 1940s, Wisconsin led the country in the production of hemp. At one point during World War II, the state had 42 hemp mills.

Wisconsin’s climate and “diverse” 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.

“We obviously have a big dairy industry, but we also grow a lot of fruits and vegetables, we have forages to feed the dairy animals, we have lumber for paper,” Goldman said.

In 1970, industrial hemp got swept into the federal Controlled Substances Act along with marijuana and became a Schedule I drug. This effectively placed a ban on growing the crop in the United States for nearly 50 years.

Farmers in Wisconsin started planting hemp again in May 2018, after Act 100 authorized a pilot program overseen by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Production (DATCP).

That legislation, passed on a unanimous vote, was made possible by the 2014 Federal Farm Bill, which ended the decades-long ban on hemp.

Modern-day hemp has numerous uses, including fiber products, building materials such as drywall, paper, biofuel, food such as cereal and bread, cosmetics — even jeans. The top use for hemp in the United States is for cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-intoxicating substance used for a variety of medical conditions.


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