Former Michigan marijuana regulator pleads guilty to taking bribes

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A former Republican House speaker in Michigan officially pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to accepting bribes totaling more than $110,000 while head of the state’s medical marijuana licensing board.

Rick Johnson, who led the Michigan House from 2001 to 2004 before joining the MMJ board, admitted he took cash and flights from Detroit-area businessman John Dalaly, who was seeking lucrative cannabis businesses licenses, the Associated Press reported.

Dalaly pleaded guilty last week.

Johnson, Dalaly and co-defendants Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown – who also were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery – had agreed to plea deals earlier this month.

Johnson led the state Medical Marihuana Licensing Board from its inception in 2017 until it was abolished by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2019.

At the time, Whitmer and other critics cited the board’s inefficiency and slow pace approving licenses as reasons for its elimination.

All four men are cooperating with prosecutors, which could result in reduced sentences.

Johnson faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and he must repay the $110,000 in cash and benefits he accepted.