Michigan Republican admits to taking bribes while overseeing state medical cannabis board
Mackinac Center

A former Michigan House speaker was indicted along with two lobbyists and a medical marijuana business owner as part of a bribery scheme.

Rick Johnson, the Republican former House speaker and chairman of the state medical marijuana licensing board from 2017 to 2019, was charged with accepting bribes, while registered lobbyists Brian Pierce and Vincent Brown were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and John Dalaly, who had sought a business license, was charged with payment of bribes, reported the Detroit Free Press.

“Unfortunately, a small percentage (of public officials) abuse the public trust,” said James Tarasca, special agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan. “Public corruption is a top criminal priority for the FBI. Public corruption erodes confidence and undermines the strength of our democracy.”

James Totten, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said a five-year investigation determined that Johnson was the "heart" of the bribery scheme that involved more than $100,000 in cash payments from companies and lobbyists seeking licenses from the board he led.

Johnson and the others have cooperated with investigators, Totten said, and prosecutors agreed not to pursue charges against the former GOP speaker for any other possible bribes he might have taken while serving on the medical marijuana licensing board, although he could be prosecuted for any crimes he failed to tell investigators about.

Prosecutors also agreed not to argue against any motion Johnson makes for a reduced sentence as part of his plea agreement.