The Sisters of the Valley is a highly unusual ‘order’ of cannabis-growing nuns, made up of only two members – Sister Kate and Sister Darcy. Their ‘abbey’ is a three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Merced, California, where they actually cultivate weed in a garage. Although they aren’t members of any religious order, Sister Kate and Sister Darcy call themselves nuns. They dress modestly – in long denim skirts, white collared shirts, and nun’s habits – and for the past one year, their self-determined spiritual quest has been to heal illnesses with the help of marijuana.
Using cannabinoids (CBD, the medicinal component of weed that is not psychoactive), they have been making tinctures and salves in their kitchen and selling the products through their Etsy store. “We make CBD oil which takes away seizures, and a million other things,” said Sister Kate, who originally set up the business and later took on Sister Darcy as an apprentice. “And we make a salve, that’s a multipurpose salve… and we found out that it cures migraines, hangovers, earaches, diaper rash, toothaches.
We spend no time on bended knee, but when we make our medicine it’s a prayerful environment, it’s a prayerful time.” In their own words, the sisters are “not affiliated with any traditional earthly religion.” The Guardian describes their principles as a blend of new age spirituality, environmentalism, progressive politics, feminism, and savvy business practices. Their harvesting and brewing schedules are apparently timed to the cycles of the moon, and they pray intently throughout the cooking process. Each day begins with ‘Bible Time’, which, far from what it implies, is spent responding to messages via email, and social media. Getting behind on correspondence with customers is something they consider “a cardinal sin.”
It might sound like an elaborate marketing gimmick set up by a couple of fake nuns, but The Guardian reports that “the women seem sincere in their belief in the healing properties of CBD and their desire to help the ailing.” Sister Kate, 55, supposedly took to growing marijuana after going through a bad divorce. She helped her nephew recover from heroin addiction with the help of the controversial plant, which helped cement her belief in the its medicinal value.
The practice of dressing as a nun just sort of happened in November 2011, when she was outraged that the US Congress had decided to classify pizza as a vegetable. “If pizza was a vegetable, I was a nun,” she decided. “So I put on a nun outfit and started going out to protests, and the movement dubbed me ‘Sister Occupy’.” Eventually, she began to like the outfit and how it changed the way people interacted with her. And not long after, she met 24-year-old Darcy Johnson, who after a 30-minute conversation with Sister Kate, decided to join the order.
The sisters are now interested in expanding their business and welcoming new members into their order. In January, The Guardian reported that they were in touch with women in New Jersey and Washington state who were interested in signing up with the Sisters of the Valley. “It’s more for the sisterhood and the feminist movement, to live and work with other women and to do a positive thing for the community, and obviously for the world since we ship it everywhere,” Sister Darcy explained.
Sadly, their plans for expansion have been put on hold because of the proposed ban on all marijuana cultivation by the Merced City Council. Although it has been 19 years since medical marijuana was made legal in California, the Medical Marijuana Safety and Regulation Act was passed by the Government last year in order to regulate the billion-dollar industry. But the final text of the law included a statement that appears to have been added erroneously, establishing a deadline of March 1, 2016 for California cities to impose their own bans on medical marijuana production.
The Sisters of the Valley, unfortunately, might be gravely affected by this legislation. “We are completely illegal, banned through commerce and banned through growing,” Sister Kate said. “They made criminals of us overnight.” “It’s frustrating to me because there are all of these people with negative attitudes about something that is truly God’s gift,” Sister Darcy told ABC News.
To make matters worse, their store was officially shut down by Etsy earlier this month on the grounds that the sisters made health claims. But the dynamic duo have hardly given up on their cause. Following the closure of their store, they started a GoFundMe campaign, called ‘Save the Sisters’ Business’, raising over $2,000 in five days. “We have CBD infused oil and tincture and CBD multi-purpose salves,” the wrote on the campaign page. “We have product! Just – at the moment – no store to sell them in.”
Explaining that the sudden halt in sales has raised their financial burden by about $10,000, they wrote: “If we can reach that goal, we can get through this ETSY store transition without fear and we accept community help because it is a temporary situation as we steady our ecommerce store on firmer shores.” They added that if they ended up raising more money than requested, they would consider rolling out a wholesale program to have their products reach as many people as possible.
As for the Government legislation, the Sisters of the Valley consider themselves answerable to a much higher authority. “We are not accepting their ban,” Sister Kate said. “It’s against the will of the people, and that makes it unnatural and immoral.”
Credit: Oddity Central.