Maricopa Co. attorney blames marijuana for spike in heroin deaths

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(Source: MGN Online) (Source: MGN Online)
(Source: Ari Nousiainen via 123RF) (Source: Ari Nousiainen via 123RF)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is warning of a spike in deadly heroin overdoses across the Valley and blaming marijuana use for contributing to the problem.

During a Wednesday morning news conference, the county's top prosecutor laid out the evidence for his accusations.

He said there were 101 deaths in Maricopa County related to heroin overdoses in 2014, up from 56 in 2013. He then played a video for the media showing a number of recovering addicts sharing their stories about addition.

Following the presentation, he said of the people featured in it, "every single one of them, when they were discussing their own addiction or someone else's, referenced beginning with marijuana use."

[WATCH: Raw video of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery news conference (Wednesday, April 13, 216)]

[YOUTUBE: This Is Not About Drugs from the Prescription Pain Medicine (Opioid) and Heroin Education & Prevention Program]

The timing of the Montgomery's comments comes one day after a campaign to legalize marijuana for recreational use announced it has gathered more than 200,000 petition signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. The number is well above the requirement to qualify for the fall ballot.

[READ: Campaign to legalize marijuana in Arizona hits another milestone]

To say Montgomery is an opponent of legalization would be an understatement. His assertion that marijuana is a gateway drug contributing to heroin use has been questioned.

Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study showing heroin-related deaths tripled between 2010 and 2014.

“Among new heroin users, approximately three out of four report abusing prescription opioids prior to using heroin,” the report said.

[RELATED: New guidelines advise doctors to cut down on opioid painkiller prescriptions]

[RELATED: Opioid addiction garners national attention]

[RESOURCE: Substance addiction information on the Arizona Dept. of Health Services web page]

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