Missouri police search cancer patient’s bags for marijuana in hospital room
Marijuana Moment is a wire service assembled by Tom Angell, a marijuana legalization activist and journalist covering marijuana reform nationwide. The views expressed by Angell or Marijuana Moment are neither endorsed by the Globe nor do they reflect the Globe’s views on any subject area.
Three police officers in Missouri went to a hospital and searched through the belongings of a man with stage four pancreatic cancer in a fruitless attempt to find marijuana on Wednesday.
Video of the search was shared live on Facebook and had more than 350,000 views as of Friday afternoon. It shows the officers rifling through the bags of Nolan Sousley in a small hospital room where he was receiving treatment for symptoms of his terminal illness.
Sousley admitted on several occasions that he does take capsules containing THC oil. Someone else in the room said it helps him manage his pain, appetite, and nausea, and he uses it as an alternative to opioid painkillers. But Sousley said he doesn’t smoke flower cannabis, and so he was confused as to why the hospital security guard, who reported smelling marijuana, called the department in the first place.
“I want to know why it’s a big deal if it is really legal in Missouri now,” Sousley said, referring the voter-approved medical cannabis legalization initiative that passed during last year’s midterm election. “Medically, in Missouri, it’s really legal now. They just haven’t finished the paperwork.”
“OK, then it’s still illegal,” an officer replied. He also said that Sousley wouldn’t be taken to jail if they discovered marijuana, but that he would be cited.
“But I don’t have time to wait for that,” Sousley said. “What would you do?”
The officers continued their search for about five minutes on the video, and at one point a medical professional entered the room and inquired about the process. She pressed the officers on whether they had probable cause or if they needed a search warrant to go through the patient’s items.
The officers said they did have a right to conduct the search. But in the end, they didn’t discover any cannabis, as explained in a follow-up Facebook video.
Marijuana Moment reached out to the Bolivar Police Department, but a representative did not respond by the time of publication.
In a statement to The Springfield News-Leader, the hospital where the search was conducted said that “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,” the hospital representative said. “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 police chief did not get back to the local newspaper, but a representative who answered the department’s phone said that she’d been “called every name in the book” by people expressing anger over the department’s treatment of Sousley. The department also reportedly deleted its Facebook page following the outrage.