Meet the Sisters of the Valley — California’s self-ordained “weed nuns” who are on a mission to heal and empower women through their cannabis products.
Based near the town of Merced in the Central Valley, an area of California which produces over half of the fruit, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States, the Sisters of the Valley grow and harvest their own cannabis plants according to moon cycles. They then cook them up into cannabis-based balms and ointments which they say have the power to heal and improve one’s well-being.
They may look like nuns but they do not belong to any order of the Catholic Church and they say their Holy Trinity is the marijuana plant.
“We’re against religion so we’re not a religion. We consider ourselves Beguine revivalists and we reach back to pre-Christian practices,” says 58-year-old Sister Kate, who founded the sisterhood.
“Through our clothes we are showing respect to a plant that has been lied about and disrespected for 100 years,” she adds.
The weed nuns use hemp in their products, a strain of the marijuana plant that has very low levels of THC — the psychoactive compound of the plant — meaning their products will not get you high. Using hemp also means the “sisters” can ship internationally.
“We do ship our products all around the world. Last year we did about US$750,000 in sales,” says Sister Kate.
Sister Kate, whose real name is Christine Meeusen, adopted the nun persona after she took part in an Occupy Wall Street protest dressed as a Catholic nun, a look that led her to be known by protesters as “Sister Occupy.”
“A sister becomes a sister through a commercial relationship and earning a wage or a commission and we want to grow this way because we want to free the women, we don’t want to make them more dependent,” she adds.
“We’ve gotten a few hate calls but you know by and far the Catholics understand what we’re doing,” said Sister Kate.
“They go ‘oh, they’re dealing with cancer patients, they’re serious women on a serious mission.’ They don’t really hold any grudge against us. And the fact of the matter is the Catholic nun is going extinct.”
The Trump administration and their appointment of Jeff Sessions, a long-time critic of marijuana legalization, as attorney general has worried some in the country’s nascent legalized marijuana industry. But the nuns say the new administration has strengthened their resolve.
“The thing Trump has done for us is put a light under, a fire under our butts to get launched in another country. So our response to Trump is Canada.”
More than two dozen U.S. states have legalized some form of marijuana for medical or recreational use, but the drug remains illegal at the federal level.