Republican who voted against medical marijuana now investing in pot industry

New York State Assemblyman Steve Katz sure has had a change of heart since he was busted for possession

Published December 19, 2013 1:00PM (EST)

  (<a href=''>Peter Kim</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(Peter Kim via Shutterstock)

This piece originally appeared on Smell the Truth.

Republican New York Assemblyman Steve Katz, who voted against a medical marijuana bill in 2012, and was arrested for pot possession in March, will invest up to $10 million in the coming years in cannabis-related businesses, Smell the Truth has learned.

Katz – a New York native and resident – joined the investor network of San Francisco-based marijuana investment and research firm The ArcView Group this December, said ArcView CEO Troy Dayton. “He’s gung-ho.”

Katz intends to help pool millions of dollars of investment capital and fund marijuana-related start-ups focused initially on marijuana business software, security, and distribution, he said. The growth of the medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis industry rivals the personal computer revolution of the early ‘90s, Katz said in an interview with Smell the Truth.

“For me, entering this industry at this time is a dream come true from a child of the Sixties all grown up,” he said.

Critics labelled Katz a hypocrite after voting against medical marijuana in 2012, then getting a pot ticket in March 2013, when an officer pulled him over for speeding. Katz said he did not personally support his ‘no’ vote on medical marijuana in 2012.

“I decided to vote what I believed to be the vote of my constituents. The day after that I told my wife, ‘Next year, I really don’t care. I’m voting for medical marijuana because that’s what I believe in and I’m not comfortable with what happened.’ … I knew how I was going to vote and I felt great about it. I knew how I was going to vote a year before the police incident.”

Katz’s citation for three grams of pot resulted in a $75 fine, 20 hours of community service and was dismissed. It also energized the veterinarian, who graduated Cornell in ’76 and got a VMD from U. Penn in ’89. The vet had worked with animals in French Guiana and the Galapagos, had founded a wildlife preserve in Israel and the Bronx Veterinary Center before self-funding an Assembly race in 2010 as a Tea Party candidate. The husband and father calls marijuana legalization a “core belief from the time I was in college and Rockefeller was the Governor.”

The pot ticket was “an epiphany,” he said. “‘You’re turning me into a criminal? You got to be kidding.’”

Katz said he has friends who are doctors, lawyers, businessmen and pillars of their community who smoke in off-hours or medically.

“We’re all criminals? This is ridiculous,” he said.

He’s also heard from sick constituents and seen his own mother suffer from terrible pain while on sub-lethal amounts of conventional painkillers. For some sick and dying, marijuana is their only relief, he’s learned. The 60 year-old former ski instructor said he’s used cannabis at night before bed for back pain and rest. “It was very prosaic,” he said.

The arrest “didn’t change anything other than make me decide that I was going to not only be a champion for medical marijuana, and for its total legalization, I was going to become part of the wave that’s building in the industry itself. “It’s a great feeling. It’s very liberating.”

“Steve Katz is not an anomaly,” said Dayton. “In the last few months numerous very prominent and seemingly unlikely investors have joined our investor group. People from all walks of life are realizing that cannabis may be the next great American industry.”

Katz co-sponsored in 2013 the same medical marijuana bill he voted against the prior year. New Yorkers could see medical marijuana pass the Senate some time in the next 24 months, he said.

By David Downs

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Gop Marijuana Industry Medical Marijuana New York Possession Pot Legalization Steve Katz