A search for marijuana in a Citizens Memorial Hospital patient room has sparked controversy and conversation about a hot button issue after a video of the encounter between police, hospital staff, a patient and his supporters has gone viral.
The Facebook live video, posted on the Nolan’s Tribe of Warriors Against Cancer page, was filmed by Versailles resident Nolan Sousley — who says he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer — at around midnight Thursday night, March 7, as a Bolivar police officer searched bags in a CMH patient room.
As of Friday morning, the video had over 350,000 views, over 6,000 shares and nearly 5,000 comments. Sousley continued to post updates on the Nolan’s Tribe page throughout Thursday.
In the live video, two officers tell Sousley and CMH staff they received a call saying someone smelled marijuana in the room.
Sousley, who narrates as the video records, tells officers he left his room and took THC oil pills on the CMH parking lot. He adds that he’s disclosed his use of the pills to his physicians.
When Sousley says officers told him he would be arrested, an officer standing in the room says, “If we find marijuana, we’ll give you a citation. We’re not taking you down to the county jail. But, we haven’t found marijuana, so we’re not citing.”
A physician who enters the room asks if officers have probable cause to search Sousley’s room.
“Do you have the right to search his stuff? Or do you need a warrant for that?” she asks.
Officers and a security guard tell her they have the right to search because they’re on private property.
Near the end of the video, Sousley refuses to let officers search one last bag, saying it’s his “bag of medication, and I’m not letting them look through it.”
“It has my final day things in there and nobody’s going to dig in it,” he says. “It’s my stuff. It’s my final hour stuff.”
The physician asks Sousley to stop recording the live video before it ends.
In a phone conversation Friday morning, Sousley said he was “highly medicated at the time it all happened.”
“I hadn’t slept for days,” he said. “As a terminal patient, you always ask, ‘Is this the time I’ll fall asleep and not wake up?’ It makes it hard to sleep.”
Lying in his bed, ready to sleep, Sousley says a CMH security guard entered the room, saying he could smell marijuana.
“I told him, ‘I don’t smoke marijuana. I don’t have any with me,’” he said.
Sousley said the security guard asked to search his bags.
“I said, ‘No, he can’t. He’s a security guard. Just leave my room,’” he said.
Sousley said the security officer then called the Bolivar Police Department.
Upon their arrival, both Sousley and his partner, Amber Kidwell, said Kidwell gave officers consent to search her bags.
“I told them no on my bag,” Sousley said.
Once the live feed video was stopped, Sousley and Kidwell said they asked one officer to stay in the room.
“I let him look in my bag,” Sousley said. “I did not have marijuana in my pack.”
In the video, Sousley tells officers he left his room and took THC oil pills on the CMH parking lot, and both Sousley and Kidwell said they walked to the parking lot around 10:30 p.m.
“I did take a couple puffs of a cigar — Swisher Sweets,” Sousley said.
Kidwell said the security officer made contact with them while they were on the parking lot smoking.
“He asked if everything was OK,” she said.
In a statement released Thursday, CMH said the hospital is “unable to comment about any specific patient, their treatment or what was done or not done in any particular situation.”
However, the statement said it’s against CMH’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,” the statement said.
Bolivar Police Chief Mark Webb confirmed officers responded to a call for service Thursday night at CMH for possible marijuana in a patient room.
“Officers received consent for a search of the room, and nothing was found,” Webb said.
He said officers did not find marijuana in the room, and no citations were issued, which Sousley confirmed.
While supervisors will pull body camera footage to review the incident, Webb said “no one’s being fired, and we have no plans to start an internal affairs investigation.”
Sousley said Friday he doesn’t begrudge the officers for doing their job.
“I’m trying to defend the cops,” Sousley said. “They did what they had to do. But, I’m their customer,” adding that he believes officers should treat people with respect until they perceive a threat.
After a flood of comments and posts on the Bolivar City Police Department Facebook page Thursday, Webb said the department has shut down its page for the time being.
“We were inundated by negative feedback,” he said.
While voters approved Amendment 2 in November, making Missouri the 33rd state to legalize marijuana, Webb said it’s not yet legal to possess medical marijuana in Missouri.
“It’s still a controlled substance in Missouri,” he said. “It’s not legal yet.”
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services website, Amendment 2 requires a series of steps be executed before medical marijuana is made legal.
The website said the state will start accepting applications for cultivation, manufacturing and dispensing facilities in August, with medical marijuana possibly available for purchase in January 2020.
In order to possess medical marijuana, Missourians will need to visit a state-licensed physician — not a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant — to obtain a physician certification and apply for an identification card from DHSS starting July 4.
Once applications are approved and people receive identification cards, the website says they must purchase their medical marijuana from a state-licensed dispensary, the website said.
The website includes a list of conditions that will qualify for medical marijuana use.
Sousley said he was dismissed from the hospital Thursday afternoon.
When asked about his motivation as he moves forward, Sousley said he wants “to make a change.”
“I’m sick of our country, the way it is right now,” Sousley said. “I don’t support the rules they have written. I use cannabis to save my life. I have the right to try anything. How can they say I can’t? I have the right to live.”
Simply put, Sousley repeatedly said, “I’m fighting to save my life.”
Kidwell said CBD oil “helps with hunger, pain, inflammation, the immune system.”
But, she said it’s even more about a bigger picture.
“It’s about a person’s right to the choice of medication,” Kidwell said. “He’s my soulmate, and I don’t know what tomorrow might bring. Every day, I wake up and pray, ‘Not today.’”