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Lobbyist pleads guilty in Michigan marijuana bribery probe

Apr 28, 2023, 9:48 AM

The former head of a Michigan marijuana licensing board Rick Johnson, left, walks with his attorney...

The former head of a Michigan marijuana licensing board Rick Johnson, left, walks with his attorney Nick Dondzila, outside federal court, Tuesday, April 25, 2023, in Grand Rapids, Mich. Johnson pleaded guilty to bribery, acknowledging he accepted at least $110,000 in exchange for approving applications for the lucrative business. Johnson's appearance in federal court was a remarkable fall. Years ago he was a powerful state lawmaker, serving as speaker of the Republican-controlled House from 2001 through 2004. (AP Photo/Joey Cappelletti)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Joey Cappelletti)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A lobbyist pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to pass bribes to the head of a Michigan marijuana licensing board, the third conviction since charges were announced just a few weeks ago.

Vincent Brown acknowledged that he had a role in getting $42,000 and other benefits to Rick Johnson before the board was disbanded in 2019.

Brown’s goal was to drum up business for his lobbying firm by promoting his access to Johnson. The board reviewed and approved applications to grow and sell marijuana for medical purposes.

Johnson pleaded guilty to bribery Tuesday, admitting he accepted at least $110,000 in exchange for approving applications for lucrative licenses. Years ago he was a powerful state lawmaker, serving as speaker of the Republican-controlled House from 2001 through 2004.

A Detroit-area businessman, John Dalaly, pleaded guilty last week. He said he provided at least $68,200 in cash and other benefits to Johnson.

Another lobbyist, Brian Pierce, is scheduled to plead guilty May 5.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer abolished the medical marijuana board a few months after taking office in 2019 and put oversight inside a state agency.

Michigan voters legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 2008. Voters approved the recreational use of marijuana in 2018.

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Lobbyist pleads guilty in Michigan marijuana bribery probe