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Jeffrey Belmonte feasted on meatballs, Caesar salad and bread with herb dip at his wife’s cousin’s wedding in Longwood, Fla. — and then felt strange, tingly and fidgety. His sister-in-law also became dizzy and found herself on her hands and knees, vomiting up her dinner.
Miranda Cady, who knew the bride through friends, ate the bread and olive oil, too. She later felt like her heart was going to stop. She went to her car and was so terrified she would die there, she sent herself a text so people would know what had happened to her.
Those were the accounts Danya and Andrew Svoboda’s wedding guests told deputies after the February reception. Their feelings of being stoned were later confirmed when they tested positive for marijuana. Investigators estimated about 50 people attended the wedding reception. None of the guests interviewed said they knew there would be marijuana in the food.
Now, Danya Svoboda and the wedding caterer, Joycelyn Bryant, have been charged with food tampering and the delivery of marijuana, both felonies, as well as negligence, a misdemeanor.
Attempts to reach Svoboda and Bryant were unsuccessful early Thursday. No attorney is listed for either woman in court documents.
As marijuana has become legal in many parts of the country, stories of dangerous incidents in which unsuspecting people, often children, consume pot-infused food have become common. In March, three toddlers in Stafford County, Va., were hospitalized after apparently eating marijuana-laced goldfish crackers at their day care, WRIC reported. This month, 14 elementary students in New Mexico were medically evaluated after eating THC gummies one of the students brought in, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
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All of the accounts in court documents detailing the Svobodas’ wedding reception came from adults who had various levels of experience with the drug. In Florida, medical marijuana is legal, but recreational use remains prohibited.
Douglas Postma, the groom’s uncle, told deputies he hadn’t used marijuana for many years until he ate the wedding food, according to an arrest affidavit. It had felt different before, he said. This time, his heart started racing, and he started having “crazy thoughts,” the affidavit states.
Postma texted his nephew to ask what was happening. Andrew Svoboda replied that he didn’t know and would look into it — a statement he would echo to other guests, according to the affidavit. Postma’s wife, Nancy, later went to an emergency room and became paranoid, loud and unruly, believing that one of her family members had died, she later told deputies, according to the affidavit.
Earlier, while still at the reception, Nancy Postma and Belmonte, her daughter, went into the kitchen, looking for water and explaining they were feeling unwell. According to the affidavit, one of the staff members told them, “Well, there’s cannabis in the food.”
Cady told deputies she remembered seeing Bryant, the caterer, putting food out. She recalled seeing Bryant pull out a “green substance” from a bowl and place it into small dishes that were then filled with olive oil, the affidavit states. With the mixture of pepper, it didn’t taste like marijuana, she said, and the green substance in the dishes may well have been “Italian herbs,” she told deputies.
But after she ate the bread and olive oil dip, she felt stoned.
Cady then asked Bryant whether there was marijuana in the food. Bryant “giggled and shook her head yes,” the affidavit states.
Going out to the dance floor, Cady found the bride and asked whether she had put cannabis in the olive oil, she told deputies. According to the affidavit, Danya Svoboda said “yes,” smiling and acting as though she had given Cady a “gift.”
Rachel Penn, a neighbor of the newlyweds, told deputies that after she ate the olive oil, she felt “weird” and “buzzed.” Around 9 p.m., she said, the band stopped playing, and the reception ended. Seminole County Fire Rescue eventually showed up, as did sheriff’s deputies.
Sitting in a hospital, Penn texted the bride and asked what she had consumed at the wedding. Svoboda, according to the affidavit, texted back: “Uggg, we have no idea, let us know if you need help with anything.”