stevekatz

The Republican assemblyman who was ticketed for marijuana possession in March is now backing a bill to legalize medical marijuana after voting against the measure last year.

In a speech on the floor of the chamber this afternoon, Putnam County lawmaker Steve Katz made only a vague reference to the possession ticketing, which was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal.

“My personal life aside, I believe we need to do better jobs of managing peoples’ pain,” Katz said. “I will not only be supporting this bill, but I will be a co-sponsor of the bill as well.”

His mind was changed in part by research into the benefits of medical marijuana and the lobbying effort undertaken this year.

“I was forced to listen to some heart breaking stories from loved ones of those who have to live in unimaginable pain,” Katz said. “At this point, I believe New York should join the 18 other states to make cannabis legal for those who suffer pain.”

Katz added that his mother’s own spinal illness, which has left her in “intractable pain” also changed his thinking on the issue.

His mother is on multiple different pain killers that have a variety of side effects.

“All of these pharmaceuticals are legal and protected by the pharmaceutical lobby,” he said.  ”There is no good reason why we should continue to not allow a viable solution to those who are in great pain.”

Katz said he had input on the legislation and spoke with Manhattan Democratic Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the main supporter of the legislation in the Assembly.

“We will be on the right side of history in voting for this and we will improve the lives of those who are suffering,” Katz said. ”If we vote against this bill, we vote against people in intractable pain. I for one will not make that mistake twice.”

Katz’s support for the medical marijuana bill is not wholly surprinsg. Last month he supported legislation that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in order to curb stop-and-frisk arrests in New York City.