A former Maryland state lawmaker and leading advocate of marijuana legalization pleaded guilty Wednesday to bribery and fraud charges after being accused of accepting more than $33,000 in exchange for granting various legislative favors, including work relevant to the pot industry.
Cheryl Diane Glenn, who represented the city of Baltimore, entered her plea in federal court on charges of honest services wire fraud and bribery. The veteran Democratic lawmaker abruptly resigned her job as a state delegate days before her charges were unsealed Dec. 23.
“Yes,” Glenn answered when the judged asked whether she agreed that she is guilty of the two charges. She answered several other questions acknowledging she understood the charges and her plea deal.
After the hearing ended, Glenn gave long hugs to the two federal agents investigating her case. She silently walked out of the courtroom, clutching manila envelopes, and neither she nor her attorney, William Brennan, would answer questions from reporters.
Prosecutors allege that in March 2018, Glenn agreed to vote in favor of a bill that would help an out-of-state company get a medical marijuana license in exchange for $3,000 in cash. They say she received the money after the measure passed both chambers and used it to pay outstanding property taxes.
The bill, designed to improve diversity in the state’s medical marijuana industry, became law. It increased the number of grower licenses from 15 to as many as 22. The legislation also increased the number of processor licenses from 15 to 28.
Glenn, 68, was also accused of splitting a $10,000 bribe with an unidentified associate weeks after meeting in June 2018 with a businessperson who wanted to talk about medical marijuana licenses. The bribe allegedly came after she agreed to introduce legislation that would give local businesses priority for medical marijuana licenses.
“I’m not askin’ people to give me money and I’m promising something I can’t promise, but I mean is he going to be makin’ a donation or something?” Glenn told the associate days before she agreed to take that bribe, according to the charging document. “I’ve stopped spending time with people if they’re not um, donating to … you know what I mean.”
The state’s medical cannabis commission is named after Glenn’s late mother, Natalie M. LaPrade.
Prosecutors also say Glenn prefiled a measure on October 2018 to lower the required years of experience for medical directors at opioid maintenance therapy clinics from five to two. Authorities say she received $5,000 from a businessperson after she formally introduced the bill in January.
Authorities say the heftiest bribe was exchanged in February, when a businessperson seeking a liquor license for a restaurant in Glenn’s district gave her $15,000 after she introduced a necessary bill. Prosecutors say the businessperson had given Glenn an initial payment of $5,000 before the measure was introduced.
Glenn admitted to taking a total of $33,750 in bribes.
Glenn was charged by information, which is a type of charging document prosecutors use when a defendant has waived being indicted by a grand jury. Prosecutors during the hearing said Glenn signed her plea agreement letter in June. Her charging document was issued the following month.
None of the people who allegedly paid the bribes are named in the charging document. When the charges were announced last month, U.S. Attorney in Maryland Robert Hur would not say if any businesspeople or associates of Glenn could face charges.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the case after the hearing.