They wear habits. They refer to themselves as “sisters.” They are known by those who know them as “nuns.” But they are not that exactly.
These women, the “Sisters of the Valley,” run an Etsy business that provides so-called CBD marijuana to sick patients. And they hope they can save those patients from a wave of local cultivation bans sweeping the state.
Those bans come in the wake of new regulations that take effect this year. These rules were passed to impose order on California’s famously chaotic medical cannabis system. But they have also spurred hundreds of local governments to prohibit any cultivation of the drug.
The sisters take their mission very seriously. They’re on a spiritual quest to provide relief to the suffering, and though they’re not driven by explicit religion, they say they bring the wisdom of faith to their efforts.
But they’re not technically nuns. In fact, they have little connection to the Catholic Church beyond childhoods spent in Catholic schools and churches. Christine Meeusen, better known as Sister Kate, says she came across marijuana at 16 in a car in Wisconsin. At the time, she says, she was “a good Midwestern Catholic girl” and didn’t take to the drug.
Sister Kate learned the positive effects of cannabis
She tried it again many years later, following a divorce and a move to Atlanta. She also used cocaine but never really enjoyed it, she says. But she quickly learned to appreciate the effects of pot.
“I learned that weed goes better with wine, that weed is calming, that weed left me with no side effect. . . . I gave up the powder and partying, but kept the weed and the wine, in moderation, like medicine.”
From that point on, Kate only used marijuana. It was, she says, her “drug of choice,” and it improved her health.
Sisters of the Valley now sell CBD products
Now, with many more years behind her, she and her fellow sisters sell a wide range of CBD products, including tonics, salves, and oils. Their products are already gone from the shelves, with strong demand for CBD.
This chemical, known formally as cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid provided by the marijuana plant. It is typically found in low concentrations in cannabis sold for recreation, so medical groups increasingly grow it for patients, especially those suffering from epilepsy and spastic conditions.
Vocal in the fight against new regulations
In just a year, the sisters have become one of the most popular providers of this medicine. It doesn’t get patients high, so their work is less controversial than it would be otherwise. They have also become some of the loudest voices against the new MMJ regulations.
The rules were included in the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act of 2015, and they give local governments wide latitude to ban patient grows. This leaves thousands of patients with no simple way to get their medicine, even as full legalization looks increasingly likely.
Marijuana advocates have called the local votes a “banapalooza” and complained that local officials have become “paranoid” about controlling the cannabis market. The state Senate recently passed a new bill that would give communities more time to consider bans, but it still must pass the California Assembly.
That deadline comes March 1, and it has scared many localities into acting hastily. They include Merced, where Sisters of the Valley is located. City officials voted in January to ban all medical marijuana grows. Kate responded by filing a petition on Change.org.
“We believe that, one day, science will prove that there’s actually a transference of energy where we do our prayers with the medicine, and that travels with the medicine to the people,” Kate says. “We are very much fans of Bernie Sanders. In fact, I doubt that a sister could become a sister with that commitment in her soul.”