They call themselves “activist sisters on a mission to heal the world.” But the world has come to know them as the “weed nuns,” a group of women with a farm in California’s Central Valley who grow their own cannabis for use in all-natural CBD products.
The women, who are not affiliated with any official religion, are a self-proclaimed group of nuns inspired by the Beguines, a medieval order of women who lived across Europe. They are feminists, healers and, in the past few years, businesswomen who are creating a popular brand of CBD products.
All their products are non-psychoactive (they won’t get you high) and are shipped to customers around the world. Before the pandemic, the business grossed about $1.2 million a year, according to the BBC. They’re now making about half that as they deal with the many taxes and regulations on the cannabis industry in California.
Weed Nuns Inspired By Centuries-Old Business Model
The Sisters of the Valley are led by Sister Kate, a former consultant who first founded a non-profit cannabis collective in 2009, serving cannabidiol medicine to terminal patients (California made medical marijuana legal in 1996). During that time, she developed teas and tinctures that allowed people to use marijuana without smoking.
The Sisters of the Valley came together in 2014. They focus on CBD products that include topical salves, infused oils, tinctures and gel caps. The products have evolved from the original goal of increasing access to the benefits of CBD without having to smoke it.
The sisters follow the lifestyle of the Beguines, calling themselves Beguine revivalists. While the sisters note on their website that they prefer the terms sister and sisterhood, “By dictionary definition, we are, in fact, nuns. We live together (as in – the planet is our home), work together, pray together, and take life-time vows.”
“We’re spiritual, but we’re not connected to any religion,” Sister Kate told WGN News. “We related to them [the Beguines] because they never hooked up with a religion. They stayed independent. They were independent women – they lived in their own enclaves, they ran their own businesses, they owned their own property.”
A Message of Empowering Women
The weed nuns have received plenty of attention for their efforts. Typically confused at first as Catholic nuns, many might be surprised at their sisters’ approach to life. In the WGN interview, Sister Kate was asked if the sisters take a vow of poverty. They take vows, Sister Kate said, but not that one.
“The name of the game is making money,” she said. “We believe that the easiest way to heal the planet and the people is to have women own more stuff.”
While the weed nuns have made news in recent years because of their novelty, they now are becoming another example of how local control and taxation in California is hurting some cannabis businesses. Legal cannabis businesses also worry that the illegal market continues to flourish because government action has stunted the growth of the legal cannabis industry.
The county where the sisters’ farm is located, Merced County, does not allow a farm like the one the weed nuns operate. That’s the result of giving local governments the right to not allow legal recreational cannabis even though state voters approved it in 2016. She said the sisters will have to challenge the law if they are forced to shut down.
Sister Kate told the BBC they hope that county leaders will change their minds and issue permits for farms such as the one the sisters run. “The truth is, I’d love for them to permit us, because that would be a win. And because we believe in paying taxes,” she said.