ALBANY — Assemblyman Steve Katz has railed against illegal drugs and voted against the legalization of medical marijuana last year.
In a mailing to constituents, the Yorktown Republican, who serves on the Assembly Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee, warned: “Our community has been stricken with an increase in drug use and drunk driving by our youngest citizens.”
On Thursday morning, Katz was ticketed near Albany, accused of speeding and marijuana possession, state police said Friday.
Katz, 59, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2010, was pulled over on the northbound Thruway in Coeymans for driving 80 mph in a 65 mph zone, police said.
The state trooper noted the smell of marijuana when he approached Katz’s car, police said. Katz turned over a small bag of what appeared to be marijuana, state police spokeswoman Darcy Wells said.
Katz was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and speeding and was issued an appearance ticket for Coeymans Court at 9 a.m. March 28. Katz was not taken into custody, police said, because he did not appear to be impaired.
At an event to discuss property-tax exemptions with seniors at Yorktown Town Hall, Katz read from a prepared statement to reporters, calling the incident “unfortunate.”
“First, I will not let this incident impede my public service and my calls for real mandate relief, a better economic climate and better services for those in need in New York,” Katz’s statement read. “This should not overshadow the work I have done over the years for the public and my constituency. I am confident that once the facts are presented that this will quickly be put to rest.”
Questioned by a reporter about whether voters might draw conclusions from the traffic stop, Katz said, “That’s exactly what I want them to do.”
Katz voted against the legalization of medical marijuana last year. He declined to address the medical marijuana issue Friday with reporters.
Katz didn’t tell the head of his Assembly Republican conference, Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County, about the incident.
“It was brand-new news to me to read about it,” Kolb said Friday morning. “So it’s the first I’ve heard of it, and I still don’t know what the details are because Mr. Katz has not called me, and I have not spoken with him.”
Kolb declined to say whether there would be action taken against Katz in the Assembly, saying, “I just have to wait for the legal process to take its course.”
Katz serves on several Assembly committees, including the committees on mental health and higher education. He earns $79,500 a year, plus $9,000 for his ranking position on the mental health committee.
Last year, Katz admitted to a pair of past arrests related to his veterinary business decades ago. Charges were dropped in both cases.
Last fall, the Albany Bureau reported that Katz’s Bronx veterinarian business settled a sexual-harassment complaint by a former female employee in 2006 for about $105,000.
Katz last year let his veterinarian license expire but renewed it after Gannett inquired about the expiration.
Katz’s Democratic opponent, Andrew Falk, said voters expect more from their elected officials, but he didn’t call on Katz to step down.
“It’s shocking behavior and inappropriate behavior, and as an attorney, I see the devastating effects of people who drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol,” Falk said. “I think no matter what your feelings are about what people do in the privacy of their own homes, this is just unacceptable conduct.”
One of Katz’s local constituents, Ed Goldfarb of Somers, expressed his dismay at Katz’s ticket.
“I’m disappointed,” Goldfarb said. “I don’t want to be on the road with people smoking pot. And, especially, a state official? Shame on him.”
“My reaction: I’m surprised,” said Nick Bianco, a Yorktown Town Board member.
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