GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A lobbyist responsible for $42,000 in bribes given to the head of a Michigan marijuana licensing board was sentenced Wednesday to two years in federal prison.
Brian Pierce cooperated with investigators in bagging the big target, Rick Johnson, who was formerly known as a powerful Republican lawmaker before leading the marijuana board in 2017-19.
The board reviewed and approved applications to grow and sell marijuana for medical purposes. Johnson was recently sentenced to more than four years in prison for accepting $110,000 when he was in charge.
Pierce, a lobbyist and consultant for politicians and the marijuana industry, was greedy and in a “dark place” when he conspired to bribe Johnson, defense attorney Ben Gonek said in a court filing.
Prosecutors said Pierce’s corruption included paying a Detroit stripper $2,000 to have sex with Johnson.
“Pierce’s bribes corrupted the process for the state’s issuance of licenses for businesses to operate in a new and lucrative industry,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher O’Connor said in a court filing.
Pierce’s partner, Vincent Brown, also faces sentencing Wednesday.
Michigan voters legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 2008. A decade later, voters approved the recreational use of marijuana.
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.
The Associated Press