Two University of Colorado students are facing multiple felony charges after campus police say they provided marijuana-laced brownies to unsuspecting classmates and their professor on Friday, sending three to the hospital and sickening five others.
The two students – Thomas Ricardo Cunningham, 21, and Mary Elizabeth Essa, 19 – were arrested Saturday night on suspicion of second-degree assault, inducing the consumption of controlled substances by fraudulent means, conspiracy to commit second-degree assault and conspiracy to induce the consumption of controlled substances by fraudulent means.
All four charges are felonies.
"There could be prison time in this case," CU police spokesman Ryan Huff said at a Sunday news conference. "This is something we take very seriously."
CU police responded to the Hellems Arts and Sciences building around 10:20 a.m. Friday on a report of a history professor complaining of dizziness and losing consciousness, Huff said. Paramedics transported the instructor, who has not been identified, to the hospital.
Around 4 p.m., a student's mother notified CU police that her daughter, who was in that class, was having an anxiety attack and was at a local hospital, according to police.
On Saturday, a second student told CU police she felt like she was going to "black out" after class. She, too, was taken to a hospital for evaluation, according to CU police.
CU police say their investigation revealed that the three hospitalized victims -- and five other classmates -- were suffering from the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
Police say Cunningham and Essa baked THC-laced brownies and brought them to class as part of a "bring food day," but didn't tell their classmates or professor that there were drugs in the baked goods.
CU police say the interviewed both Cunningham and Essa on Saturday and they "confirmed the brownies contained marijuana."
"It was planned," Huff said. "They knew what they were doing."
Police said they have interviewed the professor and 11 of the 12 students in the class. Three were hospitalized, five others became ill and two did not eat the brownies.
The three who were hospitalized have been released.
Boulder campus spokesman Bronson Hilliard characterized the incident as "a stupid, irresponsible act" and a breach of trust.
Along with facing possible felony charges, Cunningham and Essa will be subject to CU's internal discipline process. Hilliard said that, given the severity of the incident, the two could be suspended or expelled.
Hilliard said that, while students will occasionally share marijuana-laced baked goods with friends at parties, he's never heard of students feeding them to unsuspecting classmates.
"“Anybody who thinks this cute, anybody who thinks this is funny, is going to face pretty serious sanctions,” he said.
Hilliard noted that giving marijuana to people without their knowledge is still illegal under Colorado's recently approved Amendment 64, which, when it goes into effect, will legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Both Cunningham and Essa remained at the Boulder County Jail on Sunday. Bond had not yet been set in the case.