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Mahwah Police Chief: Using Marijuana May Lead to Heroin Usage

5-7-14

Gov. Chris Christie opposes legalizing marijuana and so does Mahwah Police Department Chief and President of the Bergen County Police Chief’s Association James Batelli. Batelli told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that marijuana should not be legalized because using marijuana may lead to the use of harder drugs such as heroin.

Batelli said that the idea of legalizing marijuana sends the wrong message to residents and it legalizes a substance that has a lot of health effects on youth and adults. He said it impairs thought process, can cause dependency in young adults, anxiety and depression. The effects are very concerning, according to Batelli, and he said that studies validate his opinion that marijuana should not be legalized in the state of New Jersey.

Batelli said that he has seen marijuana typically as a gateway drug to more serious drugs. He said in Bergen County, there is a very serious epidemic of heroin and he thinks there is a direct connection between the use of marijuana and heroine use and abuse.

“In the states that have decriminalized marijuana, there are findings that people are growing the medical marijuana and that is being used on the street as illegal marijuana. Around the country, they say that estimated 50 percent of the illegal marijuana on the street is grown under the protection of legal marijuana laws. We do not think that legalizing it in any size or quantity would be good for the residents of New Jersey,” said Batelli.

Batelli said that agencies throughout Bergen County are now involved in a very strong heroin initiative to stop its use and abuse. He said that he is finding that heroin usage is linking back to marijuana.

“Studies that are funded, the significant studies with a wide range of participants, do support the fact that marijuana is a gateway drug to more serious drugs,” said Batelli. “We have found in interviewing people, and what is unique about the initiative in Bergen County, is that we are interviewing the heroin users that we arrest and getting information as to what they did prior to [heroin] and what led up to their use of heroin. We are finding a link towards prescription medication that links to heroin and also the commonality is that they all started with marijuana.”