Legislative Notes


Bill Proposed For Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Lawmakers are currently seeking co-sponsors for a bill that would legalize medical cannabis in Wisconsin, and Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) has signed on.

If the bill became law, Wisconsin would become the 39th state to legalize medical cannabis to help patients with chronic illnesses.

“Marijuana does have certain medical properties, and for some people, it is a good option to deal with their illness,” Kitchens said. “This bill has strict controls to make sure it’s only used for medical reasons.”

Under the proposal lawmakers introduced Jan. 8, doctors would be able to prescribe cannabis for patients suffering from cancer; HIV or AIDS; seizures and epilepsy; post-traumatic stress disorder; Alzheimer’s disease; glaucoma; severe chronic pain or nausea; severe muscle spasms; multiple sclerosis; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; chronic motor or vocal tic disorder; Tourette syndrome; inflammatory bowel disease; or any terminal illness with a probable life expectancy of less than one year.

The bill allows medical cannabis concentrates, oils, tinctures, edibles, pills, topical forms, gels, creams, vapors, patches, liquids, or forms administered by a nebulizer; the bill does not allow smokable cannabis. All forms of cannabis must come in child/tamper-proof containers.

“As long as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, Wisconsin can’t actually fully legalize it,” Kitchens said, “This is a first step that will help people who need it for their chronic illness.”

Gov. Tony Evers and Democrats have pushed unsuccessfully for years for full legalization of marijuana. The AP reported that Evers said he supports creating a medical marijuana program if that’s all that can be done now, but was noncommittal on the new proposal floated Jan. 8.

Baldwin Joins Investigation Into High Price Of Asthma Inhalers

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) – member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions – and three of her colleagues have launched an investigation into the extremely high prices four large pharmaceutical companies charge for inhalers that 25 million Americans with asthma and 16 million Americans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) rely on to breathe. 

The Senators sent letters to the CEOs of the four biggest manufacturers of inhalers sold in the United States – AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and Teva – which charge between $200 and $600 for each inhaler, typically purchased monthly.

“No American who needs an inhaler to live a healthy life, especially children, should be forced to ration or forgo their medication because of cost,” Baldwin said. “It is time we hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable for price gouging Americans.”

Inhalers have been available since the 1950s, and most of the drugs they use have been on the market for more than 25 years, according to Baldwin. In other countries, the exact same products are sold for far less. One of AstraZeneca’s inhalers, Breztri Aerosphere, costs $645 in the U.S. but just $49 in the U.K. Boehringer Ingelheim’s Combivent Respimat costs $489 in the U.S. but just $7 in France. GSK’s Advair HFA costs $319 in the U.S. but just $26 in the U.K, and Teva’s QVAR RediHaler costs $286 in the U.S. but just $9 in Germany.

In Wisconsin, over 500,000 people have asthma, or 1 in 11 adults. In 2018, Wisconsin saw 71 deaths due to asthma, with nearly 40 percent of those deaths being Wisconsinites 65 years or older. In Milwaukee, uncontrolled pediatric asthma consistently ranks within the top three causes of emergency department visits. Nationwide, asthma alone kills 3,500 people every year, and nearly all of these deaths are preventable with regular treatment and affordable care.

In the past five years, according to Baldwin, AstraZeneca, GSK, and Teva made more than $25 billion in revenue from inhalers alone (Boehringer Ingelheim does not provide public information on its U.S. inhaler revenues). That is part of a broader pattern, Baldwin said: Between 2000 and 2021, manufacturers of all inhaler products in the U.S. brought in more than $178 billion in revenue.