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Elementary School Teacher Charged with Dosing Employees

A grade school teacher in Benicia was arrested in January and charged with spiking colleagues with marijuana-laced food at an employee potluck, police said.

The event was held for faculty and staff of the Matthew Turner Elementary School in Benicia, a city of about 27,000 in the Bay Area. Several people who ate food at the potluck in late November became sick and told authorities they felt like they had been drugged.

Theresa Gilmete Badger

One school employee brought some of the food home, where a 15-year-old ate some of it and also became intoxicated. Two women were admitted to the hospital, one with chest pains. Tests of her blood showed THC, the chemical in weed that gets users high.

“One of the partygoers was rushed to the hospital with severe reactions,” said Lt. Frank Hartig of the Benicia Police Department. “She was hospitalized. The very next morning, another partygoer was taken to the hospital, because she continued to feel like she was under the influence of something.”

Theresa Gilmete Badger, 47, a Benicia resident who teaches at the school, was arrested Jan. 24 after a six-week investigation that began when officials with the school district reported the incident to police. She was accused of willfully mingling a poison or harmful substance with food.

The alleged crime is a felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison. Badger was booked and held in the Solano County Jail in Fairfield. Her bail was set at $15,000. Police said Badger “allegedly confessed her involvement to individuals who were also in attendance at the party.”

Dosings with edible marijuana have increased in frequency as more states legalize medical and recreational pot – and as American attitudes about weed have liberalized – but they’re not especially common.

Still, while some users may regard such behavior as a harmless prank, the law does not. People who spike food with cannabis and serve it to unwitting victims are treated as poisoners by the justice system and can do serious prison time.

Edible marijuana doesn’t have the same effect on everyone. A few people don’t metabolize it and get no effect at all. Many people get an intense but manageable high. But some people aren’t equipped for the impact of the THC and become physically ill or suffer panic attacks.

There has never been a recorded fatality caused solely by marijuana consumption, and the speculated lethal dose is so high it would essentially be impossible to consume enough to kill yourself. But weed can be toxic if consumed in high quantities by some people.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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