Man involved in medical marijuana dispute tries to slit his throat during arrest

Posted May 06, 2011, at 8:09 p.m.
Last modified May 08, 2011, at 11:32 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A man who friends say tried to slit his own throat with a knife when he was arrested by police Wednesday has been ordered to be held in custody until federal officials can determine the extent to which he has violated his probation.

Jeffrey P. Barnard, 47, who has clashed with federal officials over his use of medical marijuana, was pushed in a wheelchair into U.S. District Court in Bangor on Friday morning. He was in court for a brief hearing on whether he wanted to continue being represented by defense attorney Marvin Glazier. Scratches were visible on Barnard’s neck and forehead, which his wife said stems from his arrest Wednesday in Machias, as he told Judge John Woodcock that he was scared of going back to jail.

“You threatened to throw me in a [jail] cell forever,” Barnard said, referring to a previous hearing. “I was scared.”

Woodcock clarified his prior comments to Barnard, saying he had neither the power nor inclination to sentence Barnard to life in prison.

After talking privately for a few minutes with Glazier during Friday’s hearing, Barnard told Woodcock he wanted to keep Glazier as his defense attorney.

At issue is Barnard’s repeated use of marijuana while on federal probation — which Barnard has admitted to doing — and whether he violated his probation last year when he failed to return in a timely manner after being temporarily released from custody to receive medical treatment, according to court documents.

According to Barnard’s wife, Vicki Barnard, her husband was arrested Wednesday as he was hobbling on crutches through a Machias parking lot immediately following a doctor’s appointment. He scuffled with police officers as he attempted to slit his own throat with a knife during the arrest, she said, because he is fearful of going back to jail, where his life has been threatened multiple times.

Barnard said her husband has stitches all the way across the front of his neck from his suicide attempt.

“My husband wouldn’t hurt nobody but himself,” Vicki Barnard said Friday morning outside the federal courthouse. “They just need to let him go home.”

Barnard had been scheduled to appear in federal court on April 17 for a hearing on whether Glazier would withdraw as his attorney. After Barnard failed to show up, Woodcock issued a warrant for his arrest. On Friday, Woodcock ordered that Barnard remain in federal custody until at least May 17, when officials will discuss what should be done about Barnard’s federal probation violations.

“I’m going to keep you detained, because the last time you were supposed to be here you didn’t show,” Woodcock told Barnard.

Barnard has raised the ire of federal officials over his refusal to stop smoking marijuana, which he says he does to address his myriad medical and pain problems.  Barnard has been prescribed pain relief pills but claims they resulted in severe stomach pain and blood in his urine. He said he has been prescribed marijuana by his doctor and is registered with the state as an approved user of medical marijuana, which he said is more effective in addressing his pain issues.

According to Barnard, federal officials are improperly preventing him from using medical marijuana.

Federal officials have indicated that Barnard’s federal probation predates Maine’s medical marijuana law and that it explicitly prohibits him from using or possessing alcohol or drugs. Barnard tested positive for marijuana 23 times between June 4, 2009, and Dec. 22, 2009, before the state law went into effect, according to federal court documents. Last November, Barnard filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Bangor asking for permission to smoke marijuana for medical purposes, but Woodcock denied Barnard’s request.

Both Glazier and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have declined to comment on Barnard’s case outside of court appearances.

Barnard claims that several of his medical issues stem from injuries he suffered during prior arrests and during previous stints in jail. Barnard said has been labeled a snitch by jail officials and, as a result, has been threatened several times with physical harm from other inmates.

Barnard has said that in June 2010, concerns about his safety prompted him to jump from a balcony at the Cumberland County Jail to a concrete floor 17 feet below, which resulted in serious injuries to his legs. Since then, Vicki Barnard said Friday, his left leg was amputated below the knee and he has had lingering issues with his right leg.

At the end of March, police confiscated 44 marijuana plants from a home in Gouldsboro that Barnard rents with his wife, according to court documents. According to Vicki Barnard, who has not been charged in the incident, the plants were hers and she had a legal right to possess them.

Barnard said she, like her husband, is legally registered with the state as a medical marijuana user and that the plants were hers. She said state law allows such users to possess up to six flowering plants. Only six of the plants confiscated by police from the Barnards were large enough to produce medical marijuana, she said, while the rest were small enough that they do not count toward the state limit of six flowering plants.

SEE COMMENTS →

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business

Similar Articles

More in Bangor