A Missouri man suffering from stage-four (IV) pancreatic cancer endured a police raid on his hospital room Thursday, as officers searched his belongings for cannabis.
As far as Nolan Sousley was concerned, he was about to have his best night of rest in recent memory because he could go to sleep knowing he was surrounded by medical professionals that could save his life if his health took a turn for the worse while he was asleep. As the Catalina Wine Mixer scene from the movie Step Brothers played in the background, law enforcement officers entered the safe space of Sousley’s hospital room just as he was about to get some sleep.
Sousley was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in May of 2018. By the time his condition was diagnosed, it had already spread to his liver, qualifying his cancer as stage IV.
Cancer can be categorized as any stage between zero (0) and four (IV). Cancer categorized as stage zero has not spread from the location in the body where it originated. Stage zero cancer is often considered to be highly curable because it has not spread. By the time cancer is categorized as stage four, it means that it has spread to the organs or other parts of the body. Patients suffering from stage four cancer are fighting for their lives.
Police officers from the Bolivar Police Department in Missouri received a call from the hospital’s security guard on March 7 complaining that Sousley’s room smelled like marijuana. Sousley had already been admitted to the hospital for two days.
According to Sousley and his girlfriend and caregiver Amber Kidwell, the hospital security guard had entered their room earlier in the evening on Thursday, March 7, to ask if they were smoking marijuana inside. Sousley denied the allegations, and the next thing they knew, there were three law enforcement officers in the hospital room searching their belongings.
When police arrived to begin the search, Sousley admitted to officers that he had swallowed capsules containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil earlier in the evening when he was downstairs and outside of the hospital.
Sousley explained that he did not have any more of the THC pills with him in the hospital. Even though Missourians voted to legalize medical cannabis four months earlier, Sousley had been careful to keep it outside and not bring it inside the hospital’s private property.
Sousley began recording the scene with his mobile phone shortly after the officers arrived.
There were at least three Bolivar police officers in the room for the search, and some criticize that they should have been on the streets protecting the community from dangerous criminals instead of inside the hospital room of a sick Missourian searching for a plant that was recently legalized in the state.
The video begins with the three police officers in the room. One officer is riffling through a bag, and the situation quickly becomes tense. Sousley begins speaking with one of the officers in the room who is not actively searching any of the belongings.
“Here they are. I had some capsules that had some THC oil in them,” Sousley said to the officers quite early on in the recording. “I took them outside on the parking lot.”
Sousley’s friend who in the hospital room with him at the time, Tim Roberts, begins explaining to the police that Sousley uses THC oil pills to treat the debilitating symptoms of stage four cancer and chemotherapy like pain, extreme weight loss from a loss of appetite, and nausea.
As Roberts is calmly explaining the facts to the officer, Sousley interrupts to say, “I’m going to get arrested. They already told me I’m going to get arrested.”
“If we find marijuana, we will give you a citation,” responded the Bolivar police officer, clarifying the extent of the situation. “We’re not taking you down to the county jail. But we haven’t found marijuana, so we’re not citing.”
“Why are you digging in this stuff?” Sousley asked continuing to be disgruntled. “I told you where I took it.”
To which the officer replied, “Because we got a call.”
Sousley admits that he was up front with all of his doctors and hospital staff about his use of cannabis. Like many other cancer patients, he chooses to take THC oil instead of the opioids he is prescribed.
As the search continues during the video, Sousley gets more upset. “I want to know why it’s a big deal if it is really legal in Missouri now?” he asked. “Medically in Missouri it is really legal now. They just haven’t finished the paperwork.”
“Okay well then it’s still illegal,” the officer replied.
“But I don’t have time to wait for that, man” Sousley said. “What would you do? Tell me what you’d do.”
“I’m not in that situation, so I’m not playing the what if game,” said the officer.
“You’ve never said you’d do anything to save your life?” Sously continued. “What if you had 5 kids?”
Before the officer can formulate a response to Sousley questions, Roberts interjects. “It’s not worth the argument right now. Do your jobs,” he said. “We’re not going to have the debate. Hush up.”
The silence doesn’t last long before Sousley starts speaking again.
“It’s my right to live. We’re Americans,” he said. “I was born here. It’s my right to live.”
Seconds later, a doctor enters the room. One officer explains to the doctor, “We got a call saying they could smell marijuana when they walked in the room.”
“There is no way they could smell it. I don’t smoke it. I don’t ever use a ground up plant,” insisted Sousley. “It’s an oil that i use in a capsule, so there is no smoking it. I take it like a pill.”
The physician then calmly asks the officers, “Do you guys have probable cause to search his stuff? Do you have the right to search his stuff, or do you need a warrant for that?”
“We have the right,” said the officer. “It’s on private property.”
“Alright so what’s the proceeding here?” the doctor asked the officer. “He needs to be here. If you take him, it would be problematic.”
“We’re just here because they called saying they smelled marijuana in the room,” the officer explained. “We’re trying to either find yes there is marijuana or there is no marijuana. And if we find it, we’ll cite it. We’ll leave and give him a citation.”
Once officers finished searching all of the bags in the room except for one, they asked to search the one remaining bag that Sousley was keeping behind him and refusing to subject to a search. In the video, Sousley insists that he already showed the officers the empty plastic bag that had contained the THC capsules before he swallowed them in the parking lot, but he was refusing to let them search the duffel bag that held the plastic bag of THC oil capsules.
“If we could just search it and declare there is no marijuana in it,” bargains the officer. Meanwhile, the physician in the room is attempting to calm the situation by asking the officers if they could just take the bags and leave the room to continue the search.
Sousley was sensitive about letting the officers search his personal bag. “It is my bag of medication. It has my final day things in there, and nobody is going to dig in it,” he said. “It’s my stuff. My final hour stuff is in that bag, and it’s my right to have it and i’m not digging it out here in front of anybody.”
In the end, Sousley did agree to let the officer he like the most search his personal bag after the other officers stepped outside the room.
No cannabis was found in Sousley’s room, and officers departed without issuing a citation for possession.
After the video of the search went viral on Reddit, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, Sousley and his Tribe of Warriors Against Cancer, received an outpouring of comments of love, support, and encouragement from strangers around the world.
To follow up with those who responded to the video, Sousley and Kidwell posted another video on the tribe’s Facebook page.
What went wrong?
Voters in Missouri approved Amendment 2 in November of 2018, effectively legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis in the Show Me State. The measure passed with a 66 percent majority vote.
Once a legalization amendment is approved, it doesn’t help patients out right away. It takes time for the program to get up and running. It can take months or even years for the state to establish regulations and issue licenses to medical cannabis businesses.
It is often years after legalization before patients have safe, reliable access to medication. This is where the system is flawed. In the interim between voting to legalize and implementing the retail system, patients are forced to wait and suffer. They have to live in fear that they could be arrested, ticketed, or fined for possessing a plant that is their medication.
Patients in Missouri are not expected to have access to medical cannabis until 2020.
While some criticize the police officers for having performed the search after responding to the call, the real problem is the implementation of the system.
What do you think about this situation? Should the officers have followed through with the search of Nolan’s hospital room? Tell us in the comments.
Nolan’s Tribe of Warriors Against Cancer
Sousley was not available for comment when we reached out to him, but he did comment on his YouTube page:
“Thank you too everyone. I still don’t know my rights. I am home from hospital. Loving all the comments, care, and concern. But mainly love for mankind. I have missed that the last what? Twenty years? Thirty years? Been a long time since we were civil. Love you all my fellow human beings. Let’s fight. Let’s win. #terminallivesmatter,” Nolan commented on the video he uploaded to YouTube.com.
Both Nolan and his girlfriend and caregiver Amber have had to take days off from work as a result of Nolan’s health issues. Theystarted a Go Fund Me page to try to raise funds to help them during this difficult time.
Missouri Medical Cannabis Law
Missourians voted to legalize medical cannabis in November 2018. The new law dictates that patients who qualify for the program are legally allowed to possess and use cannabis for medical purposes.
Once the program is up and running, state-licensed physicians will have the right to recommend cannabis to any patient suffering from any condition that they think could benefit from cannabinoid medication. Unlike most other medical states, there is no list of qualifying conditions in Missouri. Medical cannabis recommendations are up to the discretion of the state-licensed physician.
Once a patient receives a recommendation from a doctor, he or she will receive a medical cannabis patient identification card which will allow the patient to purchase up to four ounces of dried cannabis flower or other products from a dispensary each month.
The state is responsible for issuing business licenses to cultivators, manufacturers, testing facilities, and retailers. Patients and their registered caregivers are also permitted to cultivate up to six of their own cannabis plants at home.
Photo Courtesy of Facebook