The issue has arisen out of a bribery case that started in Garden City when three men tried to bribe city officials with $15,000 in cash to guarantee a permit for a medical marijuana grow facility.
Mike Baydoun, Ali Baydoun and Jalal Baydoun pleaded guilty to federal charges in the case. The indictment and sentencing memorandums indicated that there would be a $150,000 escrow account opened to provide bribes to other Garden City employees and “unknown state officials” to obtain a state license for a grow facility that could produce up to 1,500 cannabis plants.
According to the federal indictment, the Baydouns told Garden City officials they could make $4 million a year from a marijuana grow operations and offered the city employees a cut of the profits.
“It is deeply concerning to me that a state official may have been involved in this serious situation,” Knezek, a Dearborn Heights Democrat whose Senate district includes Garden City, wrote in his letter to Snyder. “If he/she accepted funds in return for government favors, the state employee would be in violation of many sections of state law.”
The convictions shine a light on the lucrative nature of the medical marijuana business that is just getting off the ground in Michigan. State voters approved legalizing marijuana for medical use in 2008 and it took the Legislature eight years to pass bills to regulate and tax the budding industry. The state Medical Marijuana Licensing Board, a five-member panel of people appointed bySnyder, began awarding the first coveted licenses earlier this month.
The medical marijuana business is expected to generate more than $700 million in sales and $21 million in annual taxes for the state. Those numbers are expected to grow dramatically if voters pass a ballot proposal on the Nov. 6 general election to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.
So far, more than 600 applications for medical marijuana licenses have been submitted to the state, but only seven have been granted.
The three men were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Detroit in May. Mike Baydoun was sentenced to 18 months in prison, while his nephew Jalal Baydoun was given a year and a day, and Ali Baydoun was placed on three years of supervised release.
Even though the FBI is still conducting an ongoing probe into the marijuana industry, Knezek said he wants to keep the pressure on state authorities to investigate too, noting, “I want to make sure we don’t drop the ball on this.”
In his letter to Snyder, Knezek said, “I am aware that federal authorities don’t always communicate the details of their investigations with state officials. It is imperative that this case not slip through the cracks and go without the state looking into potential criminal wrongdoing of its own employee.”
Knezek sent the letter to Snyder on Monday, and on Thursday, Snyder’s spokeswoman Anna Heaton said the governor has asked the Michigan State Police to open an investigation.