Stories of dangerous incidents in which unsuspecting people, often children, consume food infused with the plant have become common.
Jeffrey Belmonte feasted on meatballs, Caesar salad, and herbed bread at his wife’s cousin’s wedding in Longwood, Florida, and then felt strange, tingly, and restless. His sister-in-law also got dizzy and she found herself on her hands and knees, throwing up her dinner.
Miranda Cady, who knew the bride through friends, also ate the bread and olive oil. She later felt that her heart was going to stop. She went to her car and she was so terrified that she was going to die there that she texted to let people know what had happened to her.
Those were the stories Danya and Andrew Svoboda’s wedding guests told authorities after their reception last February. Their suspicions of being high were later confirmed when they tested positive for marijuana. Investigators estimated that about 50 people attended the party. None of the guests, they said, knew there was marijuana in the food.
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Now, Danya Svoboda and wedding caterer Joycelyn Bryant have been charged with food tampering and marijuana distribution, both felonies, as well as negligence, a misdemeanor.
Neither Svoboda, Bryant nor any of their attorneys responded to interview requests from The Washington Post.
As marijuana has become legal in many parts of the country, stories of dangerous incidents in which unsuspecting people, often children, consume food infused with the plant have become common.
In March, three young children in Stafford County, Virginia, were hospitalized after apparently eating marijuana-laced golden cookies at their daycare, WRIC reported. Similarly, earlier this month, 14 elementary students in New Mexico were medically evaluated after eating THC gummies brought in by one of the students, according to data from the Albuquerque Journal.
All of the accounts in the court documents detailing the Svobodas’ wedding reception come from adults who experienced the drug on various levels. It should be noted that in Florida, medical marijuana is legal, but recreational use remains prohibited.
Douglas Postma, the groom’s uncle, told officers that he had not used marijuana for many years until he ate the wedding food, according to an arrest affidavit. He had felt differently before, he said. This time, his heart began to race and he began to have “crazy thoughts,” the affidavit says.
Postma texted her nephew to ask what was going on. Andrew Svoboda responded that he did not know and would look into it, a statement he would echo to other guests, according to the affidavit. Postma’s wife, Nancy, ended up in an emergency room where she became paranoid, loud and unruly, believing that one of her family members had died.
Earlier, while still at the reception, Nancy Postma and her daughter Jennifer Belmonte went to the kitchen to get water and explained that they were not feeling well. According to the affidavit, one of the staff members told them, “Well, there is cannabis in the food.”
Cady told agents that she remembered seeing Bryant, the caterer, serving food. She recalled seeing Bryant take a “green substance” out of a bowl and place it on small plates which were then filled with olive oil. With the pepper mixture, it didn’t taste like marijuana, she said, and the green substance on the plates might as well have been “Italian herbs,” she told agents.
But after eating the bread and olive oil sauce, she felt drugged. Cady then asked Bryant if there was marijuana in the food. Bryant “laughed and nodded yes.”
Walking out onto the dance floor, Cady found the girlfriend, Danya Svoboda, and asked if she had put cannabis in the olive oil, she told deputies. Svoboda said “yes”, smiling and acting as if she had given Cady a “gift”.
Rachel Penn, a neighbor of the newlyweds, told officers that after eating the olive oil, she felt “weird” and “bumpy.” Around 9 pm, she said, the band stopped playing and the reception ended. The Seminole County Fire Department finally showed up, as did the county sheriff’s deputies.
Sitting in the hospital, Penn texted the bride, asking her what she had consumed at the wedding. Svoboda, according to the affidavit, responded: “Uggg, we have no idea, let us know if she needs help with anything.”