Editor's note: This article was first published Nov. 26, 2018. We're bringing it back today to mark National Hemp Day.
LOS ANGELES (CIRCA) — There’s little else that’s more attention-grabbing than seeing a bunch of women in nun habits smoking a blunt, but that’s exactly what happens at Sisters of the Valley.
Sisters of the Valley is a CBD product company that is entirely owned and operated by women, and they do it all while wearing full habits. They operate from a rural ranch in Merced, California, where they’re surrounded by almond farms and cow pastures for miles.
The women come from all walks of life, from all over the world, united in their shared belief in the cannabis plant. Together, they hand-make CBD-infused salves, tinctures, soaps and oils. (CBD is cannabidiol, the trendy component of the marijuana plant that is a hemp-derived extract, but it’s not the part of the plant that gets you high.)
Sister Kate is the head nun and founder. We need to put in a big disclaimer, though: none of the these women are actually nuns and they are not affiliated with any religion. In fact, they eschew organized religion.
Sister Kate explained to Circa that their faux-religious garb is a throwback to an ancient society that was nearly forgotten. By dressing in these habits, they’re honoring the original women who pioneered plant-based medicine as a business during the Middle Ages.
“We relate to our beguine mothers. In the castles in middle Europe, say around the year 800, the first nurses were our beguine ancestors. They organized the first nurses, herbalists, and they had farms where they grew hemp, and made textiles and cannabis, and made medicines, holistic medicines," she said.
“Their clothes identified their tribe. When we get dressed in the morning, we cover ourselves as much as we can for several reasons. One is it's a meditation of getting in touch with our ancient mothers. Two, it is to be covered to show ultimate respect to a plant that has been very disrespected.”
But the habits also help the women keep their core values at the forefront of their CBD operation. Sister Alice, who is originally from England but joined the sisters a little over a year ago, says it has to do with mitigating the ego.
“It is about modesty, because it’s not about us. Our ego is completely dissolved when we are here working and being a weed nun," she said. "It’s about service, it’s about healing, it’s about the planet, and it’s about doing what we can to help the people.”
Some of the women have incredible stories that brought them here, making cannabis products on this rural ranch in central California. Sister Sierra was an actual nun—for 13 years, to boot!—and she left the church and joined the sisters a year ago.
Sister Alice was in bed for two years, immobilized by fibromyalgia pain and feeling hopeless, until she started using CBD for her symptoms. And Sister Kate, the head nun, started Sisters of the Valley after a bitter divorce left her penniless. It’s from that place, wanting to empower herself and other women, that Sister Kate created this company.
And once, during the beginning stages of starting the business, a group of men trying to steal her crop of high-CBD-content weed shot at her, riddling her RV with bullets while she was asleep inside.
As far as the business side of things, the sisters are, to speak colloquially, killing it. They produce, on the high end, up to 40,000 units of product per week. It’s not uncommon that they sell up to $5,000 in a single day. And since they deal only with CBD, they're immune to the fluctuating laws and regulations surrounding weed grow and sales operations.
Besides that, their exposure is also growing. A BBC filmmaker produced a full-length documentary on them that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in France. They participated in a reality TV show called "The Next Marijuana Millionaire"—“It was the most insane thing I’ve ever done,” said Sister Kate—a book, and a growing global sisterhood.
Sister Alice says it’s really their message of female empowerment that is resonating on such a large scale.
“Women are tired of how we’ve been conducting life, and we are ready to progressively move things forward," she said. "So, we’re taking charge, we’re stepping up to the plate, and we’re just going to do it.”
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