SILVER SPRING, Md. — A former state lawmaker who helped create Maryland's medical marijuana industry was sentenced on Wednesday to two years in prison for taking bribes for legislative favours, including votes to benefit a medical marijuana company.
Cheryl Glenn, a Democrat who represented parts of Baltimore as a state delegate, told U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake that she is "profoundly remorseful" and hopes other public officials can learn from her mistakes.
"I truly do believe in the rule of law," she said.
The judge said Glenn, 69, sold her office to pay her bills and tried to cover up her corruption.
"This was not a one-time lapse. It was not a momentary giving in to temptation. It was a deliberate scheme to take advantage of her political power and misuse her influence and to break the public trust in exchange for money," Blake said.
Glenn must report to prison by Sept. 21. The judge also ordered her to pay $18,750 in restitution.
Federal prosecutors had recommended a three-year prison sentence for Glenn, who admitted that she accepted five bribes totalling $33,750 over an 11-month period in 2018 and 2019. She instigated the bribery scheme and "monetized her official position," prosecutors said in a court filing.
"The good she has done has not cancelled out the harm," Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise told the judge.
Defence attorney William Brennan had sought a sentence of probation and home detention.
"I don't think it's necessary to incarcerate a person who has otherwise lived an exemplary life," he said.
Brennan also cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to spare Glenn from prison, saying she has a lung condition that makes her more vulnerable to dangerous symptoms.
Glenn pleaded guilty in January to a bribery-related charge and honest services wire fraud.
In March, Baltimore businessman Lance Andre Lucas, 44, pleaded guilty to bribing Glenn to introduce legislation benefiting a company he worked for; to help a second company obtain a medical marijuana dispensary license; and to help a third company secure a medical marijuana growing license. Lucas hasn’t been sentenced yet.
Glenn served as a state delegate from January 2007 until her resignation in December, days before her charges were unsealed.
The first bribe she took, a $3,000 payment, was in exchange for votes in favour of legislation that increased the number of medical marijuana grower licenses in Maryland from 15 to 22 and capped processing licenses at 28.
"Glenn did this to benefit an out-of-state medical marijuana company that was seeking a license," prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors described Glenn as "instrumental" in the creation of Maryland’s medical marijuana industry. The state’s cannabis commission was named after her late mother, Natalie LaPrade.
During a June 2018 meeting with an unidentified businessman at a Baltimore restaurant, Glenn made a "stunningly arrogant statement" in trying to obtain a bribe from him, prosecutors wrote. Glenn said she had created legislation that awarded a company a medical marijuana growing license and that other applicants were "pissed off" and asked, "Who the hell do they know? ‘Cause they didn’t have any high-priced lobbyists or anything."
"I said they know God and Cheryl Glenn," she told the businessman.
A court filing that accompanied Lucas' guilty plea described his introduction to Glenn at a May 2018 lunch meeting in Baltimore. After Lucas complained about the costs of seeking a medical marijuana dispensary license, Glenn told him that she would have drafted legislation awarding him a license if he had paid her what it cost to pursue one, the filing says.
Glenn's corruption wasn't limited to the medical marijuana industry, according to prosecutors, who said she also took $20,000 in bribes in exchange for requesting the drafting of a bill to create a new liquor license. And, they said, she accepted a $5,000 bribe in exchange for filing a bill lowering the number of years of experience required for a medical director of an opioid clinic.
Prosecutors compared Glenn's crimes to the corruption cases against two other Baltimore officials who were sentenced to prison terms. Former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, a Democrat, was sentenced in 2018 to three-and-a-half years in prison in a bribery case. In February, former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to a fraud scheme related to sales of her self-published children’s books.
Prosecutors suggested Glenn was hypocritically asking for what they called a "slap on the wrist" when she used those very words to question why a colleague from Baltimore County wasn’t facing a harsher punishment for failing to fully disclose his ties to a medical marijuana company. The Maryland General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics recommended a reprimand for Del. Dan Morhaim in 2017.
"He didn’t do anything wrong? Oh, please," Glenn said, according to a Baltimore Sun article. "It’s incredulous that all he’s getting is a slap on the wrist."