Missouri police search cancer patient’s hospital room for marijuana

Joel Shannon and Gregory Holman, USA TODAY NETWORK
Published 10:51 a.m. ET March 9, 2019 | Updated 1:21 p.m. ET March 9, 2019


A cancer patient recorded video of police searching his hospital room for marijuana.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Missouri police department has faced backlash after a video posted to social media Wednesday showed officers searching for marijuana in the belongings of a cancer patient in a hospital room.

The family has identified Nolan Sousley, stage 4 pancreatic cancer patient who has stopped receiving chemotherapy treatment. Sousley takes cannabis to manage his pain as he approaches the end of his life, the Springfield News-Leader reports, citing Sousley’s social media.

The video shows three Bolivar, Missouri, police officers in Sousley’s hospital room searching through his bags. Sousley is told that if marijuana is found he will be issued a citation but not taken to jail.

Bolivar Police Chief Mark Webb told the News-Leader that the social media backlash has included threats against police and a deluge of questions that the department was unable to keep up with.

At one point in the video, Sousley references the legal status of medical cannabis in the state. Last November, Missouri voters overwhelmingly chose to create a medical cannabis system, but the state will not be taking any applications for cannabis patient ID cards until July 4.

Referencing marijuana, Sousley says in the video “medically in Missouri, it’s really legal now. They just they haven’t finished the paperwork.”

“Okay, then it’s still illegal,” one of the officers replies.

“But I don’t have time to wait for that,” Sousley says “What would you do?” 

The officer says he refuses to engage in “what if” games.

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The video also shows police saying they received a call reporting marijuana in the room; one officer says he can smell pot. 

Sousley bristles at the allegation, saying, “And there is no way they could smell it, doc, because I don’t smoke it, I don’t ever use a ground-up plant. It’s an oil I use in a capsule, there’s no smoking it. I take it like a pill.”

In the video, Sousley admits to consuming cannabis “in the parking lot.”

Webb said that no marijuana was found with Sousley in the hospital room Wednesday night and that his officers issued no citations.

He said officers were dispatched following a 911 call that came in from the hospital.

Webb said more events took place during the incident than were shown on Facebook Live, which were recorded on officer body cameras, but he declined to be more specific.

“I don’t know that they did anything,” he said. “Making contact, looked through some bags and left.”

The incident happened at Citizens Memorial Healthcare in Bolivar. The hospital declined to confirm any details but emailed the News-Leader the following statement:

“Unfortunately, due to HIPAA (federal privacy law), we are unable to comment about any specific patient, their treatment or what was done or not done in any particular situation. Generally speaking, it is against the Hospital’s policy to smoke or vape on the Hospital’s campus. It is also our policy to call appropriate law enforcement any time Hospital personnel see or reasonably suspect illegal drug use in patient rooms or otherwise on campus.”

Follow Gregory Holman on Twitter: @GregHolmanNL


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