New York Assemblyman Steve Katz was stopped for speeding Thursday and also ticketed for marijuana possession. / Albert Conte, The Journal News, Westchester County, N.Y.
ALBANY, N.Y. - A New York state assemblyman was ticketed Thursday, charged with marijuana possession and speeding, New York State Police said Friday.
Assemblyman Steve Katz, a Republican from Yorktown, N.Y., was ticketed after he was clocked driving 80 mph in a 65-mph zone at about 10 a.m. Thursday, State Police spokeswoman Darcy Wells said.
Katz, 59, who was first elected to the state Assembly in 2010, was northbound on the New York State Thruway at Coeymans, N.Y., about 15 miles south of Albany. The Legislature was in session Thursday.
When an officer approached the vehicle, the state trooper smelled marijuana, Wells said. Katz turned over a small bag of what appeared to be marijuana.
"He was alone and cooperative," Wells said. Katz was issued a ticket to appear at 9 a.m. March 28 in Town of Coeymans Court.
In a statement issued Friday, Katz called the situation "an unfortunate incident."
"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."
Katz voted against the legalization of medical marijuana last year, saying on the Assembly floor that, "as far as the medical marijuana element of this for intractable pain, or what have you, you have an answer for that already and truly you can get it if you truly need it." The bill did not pass; 18 other states and the District of Columbia have laws permitting the medical use of marijuana.
He attended Putnam County's state of the county address Thursday night, arriving a bit late, waving to the audience and taking his seat in the front row.
On Thursday morning, Katz missed the first vote of the day at 10:53 a.m., records show, but he was present for a 11:27 a.m. vote and spoke on the Assembly floor in opposition to a pain-management bill.
Katz apparently kept his ticket quiet. He didn't tell the head of the New York Assembly Republican conference, Assemblyman Brian Kolb of Canandaigua, N.Y.
"It was brand-new news to me to read about it," Kolb said Friday. "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."
Katz, a veterinarian, has been an outspoken lawmaker since taking office. He was re-elected in November and represents parts of Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties north of New York City.
His challenger in the Republican primary, Dario Gristina, is calling on Katz to resign.
"He should just step down," Gristina said Friday. "This is not the behavior you would expect from an elected official, especially from a conservative county like ours. We have enough kids abusing drugs, and the last thing we need is for our elected representative being caught handing marijuana over to a police officer."
Gristina has had his own legal challenges. He was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2000 but said his situation was different because he wasn't an elected official, the offense didn't involve drugs and it occurred more than a decade ago. He also faced heat last year when he stopped a teen driver in Mahopac and was accused of identifying himself as an undercover officer. A special prosecutor determined he broke no laws.
Last year, Katz admitted to a pair of past arrests related to his veterinary business decades ago.
Contributing: Shawn Cohen and Barbara Nackman, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News
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