The former head of a Michigan marijuana licensing board pleaded guilty to bribery on Tuesday, acknowledging that he accepted at least $110,000 in exchange for approving applications for the lucrative business.
Rick Johnson’s appearance in federal court in Grand Rapids was a remarkable downfall. Years ago, he was a powerful state legislator, serving as speaker of the Republican-controlled House from 2001 to 2004.
THE survey so far focused on corruption within the Marijuana Board before it disbanded in 2019. The Board reviewed and approved applications to grow and sell marijuana for medical purposes.
Detroit-area businessman John Dalaly pleaded guilty last week. He said he provided at least $68,200 in cash and other benefits to Johnson, including two private flights to Canada.
Johnson, 70, and defense attorney Nick Dondzila declined to comment outside of court.
Two lobbyists, Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown, agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to bribe Johnson. The four men are cooperating with the FBI, which could help them with sentencing.
Johnson’s plea agreement says he must provide investigators with information about “any criminal activity of which he is aware” and testify in court or before a grand jury if required. This provision is not limited to his work on the Marijuana Council.
“We may or may not bring future charges in this case,” US attorney Mark Totten told reporters. “What I can say is that investigating and prosecuting public corruption is a priority for our office. We will follow him wherever we find him.
Prosecutors have agreed not to press charges against Johnson’s wife, Janice. Dalaly said Rick Johnson told him to hire him to work on licensing applications.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer abolished the medical marijuana board months after taking office in 2019 and placed oversight within a state agency.
Michigan voters legalized medical marijuana in 2008. Voters approved the recreational use of marijuana in 2018.