On Wednesday, in an unofficial 80-59 vote, the New York Assembly passed legislation to reduce the penalty for publicly holding a small amount of marijuana. Only one Republican assembly member voted in favor of the bill: Steve Katz.
Originally a staunch prohibitionist, Katz voted against allowing medical marijuana in 2012, but a brush with the law this past March seems to have brought about a change of heart.
The state police stopped Katz for speeding on the state thruway and subsequently found less than 25 grams of marijuana in his vehicle; he later failed a drug test. Fortunately for the assemblyman, in accordance with a favorable plea deal, his drug charges will be dismissed after he completes a mere 20 hours of community service (and keeps out of legal trouble for six months).
Katz declined to discuss his vote on Wednesday when approached in the Assembly chamber. However, he did issue a statement later in the day saying he hopes the bill leads to "a broader discussion of our state's policies."
The bill, if passed, would lower the penalty for the public possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation. It now faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.