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McKinstry: Steve Katz's marijuana arrest is bad, but hypocrisy is worse

A man smokes marijuana in this file photo.

A man smokes marijuana in this file photo. Credit: AP

When Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton uttered the nonsensical excuse during his 1992 run for the presidency that he “didn’t inhale,” many people seemed more put off by his answer than with his partaking in a joint decades earlier.

Since then, the public seems more tolerant of marijuana. Even though it remains illegal, marijuana use nowadays doesn’t raise so much as an eyebrow for many people, unless of course a state lawmaker gets busted for smoking it on his way to work. That's when it becomes a punchline.

Assem. Steve Katz, a Republican from Yorktown, was busted last Thursday for speeding on his way up the New York State Thruway, just south of Albany when he was reportedly going 80 mph in a 65 mph zone. The state trooper who pulled him over smelled marijuana coming from the car and found Katz in possession of a small bag that he promptly handed over.

Katz, 58, was charged with two violations, unlawful possession of marijuana and speeding; he was released on an appearance ticket and has to appear in town court on March 28.

In a written statement, Katz said it won’t “impede” his public service or efforts to enact real mandate relief.

“This should not overshadow the work I have done over the years for the public and my constituency,” the statement concluded. “I am confident that once the facts are presented that this will quickly be put to rest.”

It hard to know if it will overshadow his outspoken calls for the repeal of New York’s gun law or the frankness in which he called on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to resign earlier this year after his response to sexual-harassment claims against veteran Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn.

But the blowback may not have been all that bad had Katz not come off so much as a hypocrite. Last year, he voted against a bill legalizing marijuana for medical use and regularly speaks out against illegal drug use in his community.

Last time I checked, marijuana was still illegal. Getting busted with it sends a terrible message. Just saying, Steve.