Ball, Katz Differ on Marijuana Legislation
Senator Greg Ball and Assemblyman Steve Katz find themselves at odds again, this time over two pieces of legislation relating to marijuana laws.
On May 29, Katz (R-Mohegan Lake) voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot even when it is out in the open. He was the only Republican in the Assembly to vote in favor of the bill, which would make possession of small amount of marijuana a violation instead of a misdemeanor in these instances. Five days later he cosponsored legislation legalizing medical marijuana, reversing his prior opposition on the subject.
On Wednesday, Ball (R-Patterson) had harsh words for supporters of the two bills.
“In a community where we have children dying from drugs and alcohol it is simply unconscionable that any legislator would even consider decriminalizing marijuana, or any dangerous drug,” Ball stated in a press release. “I am deeply disappointed in those legislators who voted with [Democratic Assembly Speaker] Shelly Silver and irresponsibly put our children’s lives and our communities in harm’s way.”
Ball went on to call medical marijuana a “hoax,” and said decriminalization of small amount of marijuana was aimed at stopping the controversial policing practice of Stop-and-Frisk.
Katz, meanwhile, in an op-ed sent to several media organizations, offered his first statement on the March 14 traffic stop in which he was ticketed for marijuana possession.
“I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the incident in March,” Katz stated. “I apologize to any family, friend, supporter, or constituent whom I have made uncomfortable or disappointed.”
Katz has avoided the topic since releasing a statement the day after the incident saying he was “confident that once the facts are presented that this will quickly be put to rest.” In April, as part of a plea deal, Katz was issued a reduced parking ticket and an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal and given a $75 fine plus 20 hours of community service.
On the Assembly floor during debate of the medical marijuana bill, Katz described how seeing his mother suffer from a degenerative spinal condition led him to change his position.
“Oxycodone, Lyrica, Nerurontin, Perkoset, and Ambien, all in massive doses and all of which she is now dependent on, continue to fail to mitigate my mother’s relentless pain,” Katz said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “It is the most difficult thing for a son to watch, and it is devastating to know that so many, like my mother, suffer every day under similar circumstances.”
Katz stopped short of connecting his mother’s condition to his alleged marijuana possession.
Though Katz and Ball were close political allies when they first ran for their current offices in 2010, their relationship has since chilled. Katz reportedly even mulled challenging Ball in a Republican primary, but ended up seeking re-election instead.
Both bills have passed the Democrat-dominated Assembly, but their fate in the Senate remains in doubt.