Dr. Ron Schwerzler, who caused an uproar at a Tuesday night debate on marijuana legalization when he claimed that five Colorado children died after consuming the drug, on Wednesday retracted his statement and acknowledged he was wrong.

“I really need to retract that statement because I can’t back it up,” said Schwerzler, the medical director at an addictions treatment center in Eugene. He said he might have been misunderstanding accounts of children who have been hospitalized in Colorado after accidentally eating marijuana-laced candies or other edibles.

Schwerzler appeared on a panel debating the legalization initiative, Measure 91, at Portland State University that will be broadcast at 9 a.m. Sunday on KATU(2). When the discussion turned to the issue of how legalization has worked in Colorado, Schwerzler said:

“Let’s concentrate on those edibles. There have been five infant children deaths in Colorado that have picked up those drugs.”

Several people in the audience began rebutting Schwerzler, yelling, “not true” and “what source.”

After Schwerzler retracted his claim, Peter Zuckerman, a spokesman for the Yes on 91 campaign, called it “yet another example of how opponents of marijuana reform have for 70 years been using misinformation and scare tactics” to keep the drug illegal. He argued that more accurate information about the impact of the drug would become available if it is legalized and regulated.

Schwerzler’s claim came as news to two well-known critics of Colorado’s law. Rachel O’Bryan of Smart Colorado and Bob Doyle of the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance, both said they didn’t know of any children’s deaths from accidental ingestion of marijuana edibles.

However, O’Bryan said there have been several well-publicized cases in the state of children being hospitalized after eating edible marijuana products.

Elisabeth Whitehead, a spokesman for Children’s Hospital Colorado, said in an email that the hospital has …read more