International Cannabis Business Conference

Steve Katz's Amazing Turnaround

Assemblyman Steve Katz
New York Assemblyman Steve Katz was arrested for marijuana in March.

Maybe more politicians should get busted for marijuana. Then they'd have no choice but to side with efforts to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize pot for all uses at State and federal levels.

That's the case with Steve Katz, a Republican Assemblyman from Mohegan Lake, New York in the Hudson Valley just north of the city. Last year he voted against medical-marijuana legislation sponsored by Manhattan Democrat Richard Gottfried.

This past March 13 he was pulled over on the Thruway in Coeymans, 13 miles south of Albany, for speeding. The trooper smelled marijuana and Katz had no choice by to turn over the eighth in his pocket. He was charged with marijuana possession (less than 25 grams). Now, let's remember that marijuana has been decriminalized in New York since 1977. Unless the marijuana was "in public view," which is a misdemeanor, then the penalty should have been a fine. In April. Katz took an ACD (adjournment in contemplation of dismissal), which required him pay $75 and perform 20 hours of community service; the charge has since been dismissed. (It would appear that Katz was indeed hit with a misdemeanor. The smell of marijuana is considered "in public view.")

In April, the shamed Assemblyman changed his tune, becoming the only Republican to favor a bill that strikes the "in public view" misdemeanor from the decrim law. The he cast a vote for Gottfried's medical-marijuana bill, stating defiantly: "I believe that we can do a better job managing pain for those with severe medical conditions, and that is why this year, I will not only be supporting this bill, but I will be a co-sponsor of the bill."

Now he says about his anti-marijuana vote, “I decided to vote what I believed to be the vote of my constituents. The day after that I told my wife, ‘Next year, I really don’t care. I’m voting for medical marijuana because that’s what I believe in and I’m not comfortable with what happened.'”

And about getting arrested: ‘You’re turning me into a criminal? You got to be kidding... [It] didn’t change anything other than make me decide that I was going to not only be a champion for medical marijuana, and for its total legalization, I was going to become part of the wave that’s building in the industry itself. It’s a great feeling. It’s very liberating.”

Update: In December, Katz joined the cannanbis investment company ArcView Group. He plans to invest $10 million in the burgeoning legal marijuana industry over the next few years.

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.