Meet the Hippie Activist Nuns Healing the World Through Cannabis
A group of self-ordained sisters from Merced County, California is on a spiritual mission to heal and empower the world through organic medicine. The main source? The cannabis plant — also infamously known as marijuana.
Despite the taboo associated with the plant, which is often used as a recreational drug, the Sisters of the Valley (SoTV) pay no mind to the criticisms. Their devotion, after all, belongs to nature and humanity alone.
“We prefer to work with the very real and very physical needs of our suffering people and our victimized planet,” they said on their official website. “Our holy trinity is spirituality, activism, and service.”
Some people are misled by their name and regalia, but the sisters are adamant about preserving their unique spiritual identity.
“We are Beguine revivalists and prefer the title ‘Sisters’ or ‘Sisterhood,’” they said, referring to a medieval religious movement of women actively caring for impoverished and vulnerable groups. “However, by dictionary definition, we are, in fact, nuns. We live together, work together, pray together, and take lifetime vows.”
When asked whether they think this is disrespectful to the Catholic community, they responded: “Not at all. We respect their devotion and their excellence in healing and teaching.”
The Sisterhood grows their plants in the rich, agricultural fields of Central Valley, “where plants abound while jobs are sparse.” Aside from sharing and selling their organic medical products, they also aim to provide work and leadership opportunities for the women in the area.
Cannabis: Nature’s Gift for Healing
The use of marijuana for medical purposes had been legal in California as early as 1996. In 2016, however, in what many political experts consider to be a “tipping point,” California also legalized its use for recreation.
SoTV clarifies that the cannabis they grow isn’t psychoactive, nor do sell the drug. However, they are not opposed to its use. “We are proponents for whole plant medicine, and for whole plant freedom,” they said.
Sister Kate (born Christine Meeusen) formed the Sisterhood in 2014 to share the “safe, non-addictive, and non-psychoactive” properties of cannabidiol. She had been involved in the business as early as 2009, where she formed a collective that served cannabis-based medicinal products to patients.
She said she wanted people “to experience its healing effects without needing to smoke it.”
Since the Sisterhood’s establishment, the nuns have sold the same medicinal products — salves, balms, teas, and oils — made from their own hemp plants, which they grow and tend to themselves.
“It is medical cannabis with the THC bred to be only present in trace amounts,” they said on their site. “It qualifies as hemp, but it is not industrial hemp. We grow and make our products from medicinal hemp plants.”
In fact, any form of industrialization may just take away from the sanctity of their mission. Even the ingredients they use alongside the plants they grow are stringently tested and scrutinized.
After all, it’s the seriousness of their devotion that counts them as nuns by definition, even if they do not identify with any system or religion. But they are still spiritual by nature, since they consider themselves “revivalists” of the Beguine movement — which, as they say, predate the very idea of Catholic nuns.
A ‘Convent’, But Not Really
Despite not having strict traditions to adhere to, the sisters still perform rituals that often involve nature. They make their products according to moon cycles — which is something they believe their spiritual ancestors practiced.
They also bless the packages they make before sending them out into the hands of the receivers. Why so? “We believe that we have been called to this work, and that the Universe responds to our prayers and meditations,” they said.
Thus, every one of their creations is consecrated by their own hands, through personal prayers to nature. That’s also why they refuse to set them on the ground or store them in messy enclosures, which can taint their essence.
“We do not believe that our ancient mothers would ever allow their medicines to be carelessly treated,” they said. “Our Beguine foremothers were known for their excellence, and we don’t believe that this image could have been born without an emphasis on cleanliness.”
Silence is also important in the sisters’ stations — not because of maintaining strictness or control, but because they believe that their medicinal concoctions are sanctified through a respectful environment. Similar to traditional Catholic nuns, they strive for absolute reverence in their abode: “Like an abbey, like a monastery,” was their precise description.
Rebel Sisters on a Mission for Humanity
Despite the more progressive laws in the state regarding cannabis, they’re not entirely free from such politics.
“We have to walk a very very fine, clean line here. Pay every cent of taxes, no cash sales,” Sister Kate told Refinery29. “I know that if we would give them reason, they would shove us down.”
But the sisters are steadily walking towards their visions of empowering more lives — not only through their products but also through their community.
Criticisms continue to run high, especially from formal and devout religious groups. There is still taboo associated with the cannabis plant and the organization is often criticized for its divergent spiritual identity.
However, Sister Kate and her newfound order are backed up by solid support from some of the townspeople. Many are seeing the value of the cannabis industry in changing the lifestyle and political landscape of the neighborhood.
“It’s not like we all wake up one morning and go, ‘Meh, nothing wrong with marijuana. Let’s make it legal,’” said Tony Dossetti, former councilman and policeman. “It happens, in my opinion, at a grassroots level. It doesn’t happen in the halls of Congress, it doesn’t happen in the halls of city government or county government, it happens on the street level.”
That is the goal of the sisters, who are not people in power imposing their word, but a fortified group of activists who are resolute in sharing their advocacies.
“I’m not a follower of the movement per se, but I do believe in civil liberties,” said Jeremy Huesler, a watchman of the company as of 2017. “That’s why I feel so good about being out here.”
He added, “Sister Kate is the most fascinating human being I’ve ever met in my entire life. She is such a kindhearted person but at the same time, [she’s] kind of a gangster, a little bit.”
It might be an uncanny description, but it’s perfect for the Sisters: many might consider their beliefs and practices “unorthodox,” but ultimately, their vision is to help and improve states of life. A religious establishment doesn’t have to be a prerequisite for that.
So, amidst the noise, the sisters carry on in their mission. “There is much work to be done, always, as there is no shortage of suffering people on the planet,” they said.