Former Michigan House Speaker Guilty of Corruption

Rick Johnson admits taking bribes while chair of marijuana licensing board
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2023 8:46 AM CDT
Former Michigan House Speaker Guilty of Corruption
Rick Johnson chairs the committee as it meets before a capacity crowd in Lansing, Mich., June 26, 2017, at the first open meeting of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Board.   (Dale G Young/Detroit News via AP, File)

In Michigan, the smell of legal marijuana came with the stench of corruption, according to federal investigators. Rick Johnson, former speaker of the Michigan House and former chairman of the Michigan Marijuana Licensing Board, has been charged with taking more than $110,000 in bribes connected to marijuana licenses, Politico reports. Business owner John Dalaly has been charged with paying bribes and lobbyists Vincent Brown and Brian Pierce have been charged with conspiracy to commit bribery. Officials say all four men have agreed to plead guilty and are cooperating with the investigation. Johnson and Dalaly could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison plus a $250,000 fine.

Brown and Pierce could face a maximum sentence of five years plus a $250,000 fine. Prosecutors say Johnson, the GOP state House speaker from 2001 to 2004, took the bribes while he was chair of the marijuana board between 2017 and 2019. "To be clear: Johnson accepted these bribes corruptly, which is to say that he accepted them with the understanding that these bribes were offered to influence him or to reward him for actions that he might take—mainly, to help the payers of the bribe obtain licenses," said US Attorney Mark Totten, per The board granted licenses to growers, processors, and others in the marijuana industry.

Johnson, 70, admitted taking bribes in cash as well as services including private charter flights to Canada. As part of the plea deal, he has agreed to forfeit the $110,000 in bribes he accepted. "Public corruption is a poison to any democracy. Those who wield the power of state have a sacred obligation to serve the people they represent. But when a government official takes a bribe, they spurn that solemn duty—in favor of the connected, the crooked, and ultimately themselves," Totten said in a press release. "Now and always, my office will place the highest priority on rooting out public corruption, with independence and impartiality." (More Michigan stories.)

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