Ex-head of Michigan marijuana board charged with bribery

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

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

Johnson was chairman of the marijuana board for two years until spring 2019. The Republican also was one of the most powerful lawmakers in the Capitol, serving as House speaker from 2001-04.

“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.

Johnson and the others have signed agreements to plead guilty in coming weeks and the investigation is ongoing, said Totten, the federal prosecutor in western Michigan.

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