When police officers wanted to search Nolan Sousley’s medicine bag, he said no.
One of the officers said police had received a call that marijuana could be smelled in the hospital room in Bolivar, in western Missouri — where the substance is illegal, though medical marijuana will soon be available in the state. Sousley, who said he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, told the officers that he had taken THC oil pills in the parking lot of Citizens Memorial Hospital but that he did not have marijuana and he did not want them going through his things.
“There is no way they could smell it, doc, because I don’t smoke it,” Sousley said to a medical professional who was in the room Wednesday during a Facebook Live video. The video was streamed from the page “Nolan’s Tribe of Warriors Against Cancer.” “I don’t ever use a ground-up plant. It’s an oil that I use in a capsule.”
Then he told her about his bag of medication.
“I’m not letting them dig through it. It has my final-day things in there, and nobody’s going to dig in it,” Sousley said, his voice cracking.
Sousley said in a subsequent video that he ultimately let one of the officers go through the bag and that no marijuana was discovered.
The video of the search, which has been viewed more than 600,000 times, prompted outcry from people advocating for such oils and for Sousley, who has said that he does not know how long he has to live. The Facebook page for Sousley said he was diagnosed around Memorial Day with pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his liver. He said he takes THC oil to manage pain.
A Facebook post from Thursday talked about the viral response.
“This is what I’ve worked for. It finally got here. Here we go fellow fighters. We goin viral. I’m gettin calls from weed companies, attorneys I am crying I’m so happy. I can quit workin so hard now,” it read.
The comment added, “I told you I was gonna do this and I did. I want the world to see how we treat our own people. Forget immigration we have criminals laying in the hospital I guess. I am so happy. Look what we’ve done. All of us together. Thank you all so much for caring and believing. Let it go. Let it grow.”
Amid the uproar, Sousley told the Bolivar Herald-Free Press that he did not blame the police and hopes the incident can be used for good.
Bolivar Police Chief Mark Webb told the Herald-Free Press that officers responded to a call last week about possible marijuana in a patient’s room at Citizens Memorial Hospital and obtained consent to conduct a search. It is not clear who placed the call. But Sousley told the newspaper that a security guard entered his room, saying he could smell marijuana smoke, then phoned police.
The Facebook Live video started after police arrived. In the video, an officer is seen searching bags in Sousley’s room.
During the search, a woman in a white lab coat, whom Sousley referred to in the video as his doctor, asked the officers, “Just from a legal standpoint, do you have probable cause to search his stuff? Do you have the right to search his stuff or do you need a warrant for that?”
Officers told the doctor that they had the right because it was on private property.
“So what’s the proceeding here?” she asked them. “Because he needs to be here.”
The officers explained that if they discovered marijuana, they would give Sousley a citation but would not take him to jail. Soon after, the broadcast ended.
Webb, the police chief, told the Herald-Free Press that “nothing was found.”
Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Washington Post.
After the incident, Tamera Heitz-Peek, a hospital spokeswoman, said in a statement to The Post that “respect is part of our core values” and “our actions in this recent event did not reflect who we are as an organization.”
“We pride ourselves in providing compassionate care to all patients and we fell short of expectations,” she said in the statement Sunday. “We apologize to our patient and his family and friends who were affected by our actions. We are reviewing the incident and will retrain our employees in the core values and the importance of respect and dignity to our patients and the community.”
In November, Missourians voted to legalize medical marijuana for patients with serious illnesses or medical conditions. However, the rules and regulations needed to implement the law may not be in place until the summer, and the substance will not be available for purchase until at least January, according to the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services. Patients with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, and chronic or terminal conditions may qualify for treatment.
Recreational marijuana is illegal in the state.
Webb told the Herald-Free Press that his department’s social media account has been overrun with negative comments since the incident.
In a statement to the newspaper Saturday, Sousley said that “we are all human beings” and then called on people to “treat everyone the way you want to be treated.”
“It is my desire that this entire situation be used for good — politicians should stop trying to limit our right to use cannabis and its derivatives,” Sousley said in the statement, which was provided to the newspaper by a lawyer with the same last name as his. “There are many issues that are demanding the attention of politicians. This is not one of them.”
He added that he hopes “CMH and the City of Bolivar will train officers to treat everyone with whom they interact with respect and refrain from treating people as if they all belong in jail, regardless of economic status, race, culture, religion.”