Police went to Nolan Sousley’s hospital room at Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, Missouri, Wednesday night because they had gotten a call reporting a marijuana smell coming from his room. Missouri voters passed a bill legalizing medical cannabis in November 2018, but the regulations are not in place yet.
Sousley has stage 4 pancreatic cancer and, as he told the officers, had taken a capsule with THC oil in the hospital parking lot, but hadn’t smoked any marijuana and didn’t have any with him. Ultimately, officers only found CBD oil, which is already legal in Missouri.
In the video (filmed by Sousley from his hospital bed), officers search through the bags in Sousley’s hospital room while Sousley explains he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. An officer says if they find marijuana they will issue a citation.
“Medically in Missouri it’s really legal now, they just haven’t finished the paperwork,” Sousley tells one of the officers, who responds that it’s still illegal. “But I don’t have time to wait for that. What would you do, tell me what you’d do.”
“I’m not in that situation so I’m not gonna play the what-if games,” the officer says.
“You’ve never said you’d do anything to save your life? You’d do anything to save your life,” Sousley says.
“Marijuana is saving your life?” the officer asks.
“It’s the only choice I’ve got to live, man,” Sousley says.
A doctor comes in the room and asks if the officers have probable cause or if they need a warrant to search the room, to which an officer replies they have the right to search because Sousley is on private property.
The video, which has more than 750,000 views, was shared Wednesday by Sousley’s Facebook page Nolan’s Tribe of Warriors Against Cancer.
Watch the full video here:
Sousley told the Bolivar Herald Free Press that he didn’t blame the police department for what happened. Sousley said he and his fiancee had encountered a security guard earlier that evening in the parking lot while they were smoking a cigar.
Later, that same “overzealous security guard” entered his room saying he smelled marijuana. When Sousley did not give him permission to search his belongings, the security guard called the police. Sousley and his fiancee ultimately gave the officers permission to search their bags.
“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. “There are many issues that are demanding the attention of politicians. This is not one of them.”
In response to the incident, Citizens Memorial Hospital issued a statement saying they were reviewing what happened and will retrain employees on the hospital’s core values and the importance of respect and dignity to their patients.
“Our actions in this recent event did not reflect who we are as an organization,” the statement said. “We pride ourselves in providing compassionate care to all patients, and we fell short of expectations. We apologize to our patient and his family and friends who were affected by our actions.”
Public outrage led the Bolivar Police Department to shut down its Facebook page. Many people also spoke out on Twitter:
This new season of THE WIRE sucks. https://t.co/FkkXSKfsVA
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) March 9, 2019
I spend half my advanced-stage cancer care in California, half in Minnesota where weed isn’t legal.
Talk to me when you’ve screamed yourself to sleep at night from pain — and I’ll argue about the merits of legalizing marijuana everydamnwhere. https://t.co/eRItk9X1eO
— Elisabeth R. Finch (@erfinchie) March 10, 2019
This is horrifying. Cancer is a beast. Being in the hospital, battling cancer and having the law search your room for marijuana? Insanity. Pure insanity. Marijuana in many forms can help cancer patients suffering. Legalization is needed everywhere. https://t.co/vLWPehMIQc
— Geno Carter (@Genosworld) March 9, 2019
Stage 4 pancreatic is one of the worst you can get. I don’t care if they had a cannon filled with molly and Cocaine. Let them fight the fight however they want.
— Nick Swardson (@NickSwardson) March 9, 2019
In her Chronically Cannabis column for The Mighty, cannabis expert Michelle Ross explained that while CBD oil (the non-psychoactive, legal form of cannabis) can help treat pain, THC, the psychoactive element of cannabis, is more powerful at relieving pain. Using the two in combination is generally more effective for people with chronic illness.
“I call CBD by itself, depending on the dosage, kind of like regular Tylenol, and CBD plus THC is like Tylenol Extra Strength,” Ross said.
Read more of Ross’ insights and advice about medical cannabis here.
Cannabis is not legal at the federal level and is still classified as a schedule 1 drug, or a drug with no accepted medical use and high potential for abuse, leaving states to create their own laws regarding cannabis use. Cannabis in any form, medical or recreational, is still fully illegal in 15 states. The remaining states are a mix of fully legalized, medically legalized and in some states simply “decriminalized.”
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, applications for medical marijuana identification cards in Missouri will begin to be accepted on July 4, 2019.