Detroit-area businessman gets more than 2 years in prison for paying bribes for marijuana license

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A Detroit-area businessman who bribed the head of a Michigan marijuana licensing board was sentenced Thursday to more than two years in federal prison.

John Dalaly said he provided at least $68,200 in cash and other benefits to Rick Johnson, including two private flights to Canada.

Johnson was chairman of the marijuana board for two years before the board was disbanded in 2019. The board reviewed and approved applications to grow and sell marijuana for medical purposes.

Dalaly, 71, had a stake in a company that was seeking a license. He paid Johnson's wife over several months for help with the application process.

U.S. District Judge Jane Beckering sentenced Dalaly to 28 months in prison.

“John is proof that good men can make bad decisions,” defense attorney Ray Cassar said in a court filing.

Johnson, a Republican, was a powerful Republican lawmaker years ago, serving as House speaker from 2001 through 2004. He has admitted accepting at least $110,000 in bribes when he was on the marijuana board and is awaiting a sentence.

Two lobbyists, who referred to Johnson as “Batman” in text messages, have also pleaded guilty to bribery-related charges.

Prosecutors are recommending a nearly six-year prison term later this month for Johnson. In a court filing, they said one of the lobbyists paid for him to have sex with a woman.

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

“Public corruption is a poison to our democracy, and we will hold offenders accountable whenever and wherever we find them,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said after Dalaly was ordered to prison.

Michigan voters legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 2008. A decade later, voters approved the recreational use of marijuana.