The Sisters of the Valley, dubbed the “Weed Nuns,” are using hemp to empower women and heal. Based in Merced, CA, they grow and harvest their own marijuana. Despite their clerical habits, they are not affiliated with any church. “We’re against religion, so we’re not a religion. We consider ourselves Beguine revivalists, and we reach back to pre-Christian practices,” says Christine Meeusen, known as Sister Kate, founder of the group. A beguine was a lay woman living in a religious community, but without formal vows, primarily in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Sisters of the Valley consider their practices deeply spiritual, and have rituals. They use hemp, a strain of the cannabis plant with low Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels. THC is the psychoactive element of weed, and hemp, with its low levels, purportedly has the healing properties without making the user as high. They produce balms and ointments with hemp and other herbs that supposedly can improve health.
Medical marijuana is legal in almost half the country, and recreational use has been legal in California since November 2016. However, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. The Sisters of the Valley are also working to extend their sales into Canada, because of concerns that the current administration will walk back legalization.
Christine Meeusen started dressing as a nun in 2011 as part of the Occupy Wall Street protests. She became known as “Sister Occupy,” and maintained the persona after the protests were over.