The former head of a Michigan medical cannabis licensing board on Thursday pleaded guilty to accepting $110,000 in bribes in exchange for industry licenses, CBS News reports. Rick Johnson served as head of the board for two years and served as state House speaker from 2001-2004 when Republicans controlled the chamber.
During a press conference on Thursday, U.S. Attorney Mark Totten announced the charges against Johnson, John Dalaly, Brian Pierce, and Vincent Brown. All four signed plea deals admitting the charges.
Dalaly, who was granted a medical cannabis license during Johnson’s tenure, pleaded guilty to providing at least $68,200 in cash and other benefits to Johnson, including two private flights to Canada, according to court documents outlined by CBS News.
Pierce and Brown were lobbyists who also pleaded guilty to conspiring to pass bribes to the former lawmaker.
“Public corruption is a poison to any democracy. … That poison is especially toxic here. The marijuana industry has been likened to a modern-day gold rush, a new frontier where participants can stake their claim and just maybe return big rewards.” — Totten, during a press conference, via CBS News
All four men are expected to be arraigned in the next one to two weeks, Politico reports. Johnson and Dalaly face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Pierce and Brown face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Under the plea agreement, Johnson agreed to forfeit the $110,000 in bribes and the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed not to oppose his request for a reduction in offense level, which would impact his sentencing.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), in 2019, abolished the medical cannabis board and put oversight of the industry inside a state agency.
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