You may recall that NY State Assemblyman Steve Katz was arrested for alleged pot possession earlier this year after he had voted against the legalization of medical marijuana last year. Katz ultimately had his case dismissed as part of a sweet plea deal, but it seems his hypocrisy on the subject has finally gotten to him: today, Katz was one of the assemblyman to vote in favor of the passage of the marijuana decriminalization bill in the Assembly.
Altogether, the bill passed 80-59, with Katz the lone Republican vote. As for why he is now supporting marijuana reform laws, Katz said in a statement that it "seeks to reduce (justice) costs associated with marijuana violations." He wouldn't comment beyond that: "My daughter's getting married on Sunday. You can talk to my chief of staff."
This was the same marijuana reform bill that was supposed to have been passed back in March, but stalled due to poor leadership and miscommunication, according to Gabriel Saygeh of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now the bill goes on to the Senate where the prospects are mixed," Saygeh tells us. "Senators [Jeff] Klein and [Dean] Skelos have put together this coalition to see if they'll be able to deliver on a progress bill like this that's really about civil rights equity and fairness."
As for whether Gov. Cuomo—who had been an outspoken supporter of the bill previously—would aid them in the Senate, Saygeh was hopeful but wary: "One would hope so. We've been concerned that the governor has not mentioned this issue at all in the last few weeks when talking about session priorities...That's been disconcerting because there are very few pieces of legislation being considered in Albany right now that would address some of the extraordinary issues relating to racial disparities in the state."
The Senate will have three weeks to vote on the bill until the end of the legislative session; if it isn't voted on by then, it'll have to go through this whole process again next year. "The NYPD spent 1 million police hours on these low level marijuana arrests," he said. "A delay to next year would be outrageous."