Pubdate: Thu, 23 Oct 2014
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2014 The Oregonian
Author: Jeff Mapes


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 had an increase in the number 
of children it has treated for accidental ingestion of edible 
marijuana products in the last several years.

In 2013, following the 2012 vote to legalize recreational marijuana, 
the hospital treated eight children. After retail sales began in 
January of this year -- the hospital had treated 13 children as of 
early August.

Of those 13 children, Whitehead said, seven were admitted to the 
intensive care unit and two required the insertion of a breathing tube.

There has been wide controversy in Colorado over the broad number of 
marijuana-laced candies, cookies and other products sold by 
retailers, and a state commission is now studying what restrictions 
to adopt. The state Department of of Public Health and Environment 
broached the idea of restricting edibles to hard lozenges and liquid 
drops, but backed away from that after the proposal became public.

Schwerzler emailed a statement Wednesday to leaders of the No on 91 
campaign retracting his claim. Here is what he said:

After our conversation today I realized that my statement about 
children's deaths in Colorado is in error. There have been admits to 
ICUs for children who have eaten edibles and were hospitalized. I was 
in error and deeply regret any consequences of my actions. As a 
physician I make every effort to be honest with my patients and 
myself. When wrong I try to promptly admit it and make amends whenever possible.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom