Ex-head of Michigan marijuana board admits he took bribes

The former head of a Michigan medical marijuana licensing board has agreed to plead guilty to accepting $110,000 in bribes when he led the panel over a two-year period, authorities said Thursday.

Rick Johnson acknowledged in a signed court filing that he acted “corruptly” when he accepted cash and other benefits to help businesses get licenses.

Charges against Johnson and three other men were announced by U.S. Attorney Mark Totten at a press conference near the Capitol in Lansing.

Johnson, 70, was chairman of the marijuana board for two years until spring 2019. The Republican years earlier also was a powerful lawmaker, serving as House speaker from 2001 through 2004.

“Public corruption is a poison to any democracy. … That poison is especially toxic here,” Totten said. “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.”

The marijuana board reviewed and approved applications to grow and sell marijuana for medical purposes.


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