Bolivar, MO – Outraged medical marijuana supporters have flooded the Bolivar police with angry calls after a video of police searching the room of a cancer patient went viral (video below).
The incident began late in the evening on March 6 when a security guard walked into Nolan Sousley’s room at Citizens Memorial Hospital and said that he smelled marijuana, according to the Bolivar Herald-Free Press.
The security guard asked to search Sousley’s belongings and was told no and asked to leave.
According to the Bolivar Herald-Free Press, the security guard refused to leave, and instead called the Bolivar Police Department.
Sousley, who is diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, was receiving chemotherapy treatment at Citizens Memorial Hospital when police arrived in response to the call from hospital security, according to WDAF.
The patient and his family started filming on their cell phones when the police officers entered the room and began searching through bags. The video was posted in real time on Facebook live.
Sousley kept up a running narrative as the video was filmed, and explained that he had some THC pills but had taken them out in the parking lot.
A family member started explaining the medical benefits of marijuana for cancer patients, but Sousley cut him off.
“I am gonna get arrested. They already told me I’m gonna get arrested,” he said.
“If we find marijuana, we’ll give you a citation,” an officer corrected him in the video. “We’re not taking you down to the county jail.”
The officer explained they had to respond because they received a call about the smell of marijuana from Sousley’s room.
“Medically in Missouri it’s really legal now - they just haven’t finished the paperwork,” Sousley insisted in the video.
“Okay, well then it’s still illegal,” the officer replied.
Missouri voters approved medical marijuana on the November of 2018 ballot, but the new law hasn’t gone into effect yet, the Bolivar Herald-Free Press reported.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services website said that the state would start accepting applications for cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensaries in August of 2019, with a goal of possibly making medical marijuana available for purchase in January of 2020.
Residents of Missouri will be able to begin the process for getting the identification card required to purchase medical marijuana after July 4, the Bolivar Herald-Free Press reported.
They have to visit a state-licensed physician for a certification and then apply for the card.
After the video went viral, thousands of people began calling the Bolivar police and hammering the department on social media.
Bolivar Police Chief Mark Webb said the department’s phone line had been overrun with callers from across the country complaining about the police action.
Chief Webb said that it wasn’t possible for the staff to keep up with the volume of calls.
He also said they had shut down the Bolivar PD’s Facebook page due to all the negative feedback they were receiving in the wake of the viral video.
Polk County’s central dispatch was also slammed with negative calls in the wake of the video.
E-911 Director Sarah Newell told the Bolivar Herald-Free Press that the county’s non-emergency phone line was overwhelmed with callers “cussing, screaming, saying awful things.”
Despite the negative feedback, Chief Webb said he had no plans to discipline or fire any of the officers involved in the incident at the hospital.
The chief also confirmed that he had no plans to launch an internal affairs investigation into their handling of the incident, the Bolivar Herald-Free Press reported.
The video showed that one officer carefully searched bags in the room while another officer stood by and calmly talked with the patient and his family.
Eventually, a doctor entered the room and asked the police what was going on.
Sousley continued to refuse to let officers search one of his bags because “it has my final day things in there and nobody’s gonna dig in it,” Sousley said in the video.
“Make good decisions because this is Facebook live and I’ve got 1,200 people right now,” Sousley announced as the doctor tried to work things out with the officers.
After he said that, the doctor suggested Sousley stop filming her and the officers “because otherwise nobody’s going to help you out,” she warned.
The video ended a few seconds later, after the patient himself made a brief appearance.
Sousley eventually let one officer search his “final days” bag.
Police said no marijuana was found in the patient’s room, the Bolivar Herald-Free Press reported.
The hospital initially stood behind their security officer.
"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,” Citizens Memorial Hospital said in a statement immediately after the incident.
However, later the hospital apologized, according to the Bolivar Herald-Free Press.
"Respect is a part of our core values. Our actions in this recent event did not reflect who we are as an organization. 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,” the hospital said in the second statement.
Sousley put out a press release after his video went viral to try to put the kibosh on the outpouring of hate being directed at his local police.
“I do not blame the town of Bolivar,” he wrote. “I do not blame the Bolivar Police Department for what happened.”
Instead, Sousley blamed an “an overzealous security guard,” according to the Bolivar Herald-Free Press.
“We are all human beings… please treat everyone the way you want to be treated,” he wrote. “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. There are many issues that are demanding the attention of politicians. This is not one of them.”
Watch the officers searching the hospital room in the video below: