Sister Kate calls herself an “accidental nun.” At age 16, she tried marijuana for the first time inside a friend’s car during a cold Wisconsin winter. But that was when she was a “good Midwestern Catholic girl,” and the drug did nothing for her.
Years later, after her first marriage had come and gone, after she moved to Atlanta to work for General Electric, Kate tried weed again (not to mention cocaine.) This time was different, she wrote on her blog: “I learned that weed goes better with wine, that weed is calming, that weed left me with no side effects. … I gave up the powder and partying, but kept the weed and the wine, in moderation, like medicine.”
Cannabis became the beginning and end of Kate’s prescription list. It was not just her “drug of choice” — it was the only drug she used, according to her blog.
Thirty years later, she sells her favorite kind of medicine under the brand “Sisters of the Valley,” an Etsy business devoted to medicinal products infused with cannabidiol, one of two main extracts from marijuana plants. Although the venture is just a year old, all of the sisters’ offerings — from tonics to salves — have already sold out, and Kate has recently become one of the loudest voices opposing California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.
Enacted in October, the law gives cities a choice: develop local marijuana regulations by March 1 or yield control to the state. The city of Merced, where Sisters of the Valley is based, voted last week to ban medical marijuana cultivation pending further deliberation. The decision has prompted Kate to start a Change.org petition.
A video shows Kate in a uniform closely resembling a Catholic nun’s habit and condemning the Central Valley legislators, whom she says have “their heads up their butt” and who have reacted to the regulations pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) by prohibiting medical marijuana cultivation in their jurisdictions.
“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, ending her video spot with a political endorsement: “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.”
The catch to all this, of course, is that Kate (whose real name is Christine Meeusen) and her apprentice, Sister Darcy, aren’t really nuns — even if they look the part.
They espouse spirituality over any one religion, and they see cannabis as an outlet for their healing energies rather than as an object of worship.
Kate, a vegan and former resident of Amsterdam who wrote a book of sex tips for men, explained to the Daily Beast that she grew up attending Catholic schools and that she remains attached to the religion’s nurturing undertones after having long eschewed its doctrines.
“Our culture of sisterhood isn’t just about the cannabis plant,” Kate told Vice. “Spirituality is about following ancient wisdom, planting by moon cycles, and harvesting by moon cycles, and participating in what is nourishing to the soul.”
She added: “The stoner culture is kind of offensive to those of us who have held a pipe up to a shaking Parkinson’s patient, and seen how [with] one hit out of the pipe, his shakes can go away, and he can actually get up and make tea and act like a normal person.”
While the Sisters are honest about being neither Catholic nor traditionally religious, they are rather coy about their relationship to nunhood. “We spend no time on bended knee, but when we make our medicine, it’s a prayerful environment. It’s a prayerful time,” Kate told ABC.
Their uniforms ensure that prayer is never far from their customers’ minds. The Sisters of the Valley’s social media accounts are filled with photos of Kate and Darcy dressed in their nun habits while tending to their marijuana plants, refilling their medicine cabinets and meeting fans.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, Kate said her nun persona was born after she wore a habit to an Occupy protest. She noticed that people would automatically come up to her, telling her their worries and asking for prayers.
“Inspired by the level of comfort her nun identity evoked,” the Daily Beast’s Abby Haglage wrote, “she decided to keep it.”
So far, the sisters’ spiritual sales pitch appears to be working. Their Etsy page has an average rating of a perfect five stars across 129 reviews, with numerous customers thanking Kate and Darcy for curing them of their aches and pains.
“I have had chronic pain for years and have tried everything,” one reviewer wrote of the multi-purpose cannabidiol salve. “This salve worked so quickly I ordered the larger size within an hour of receiving it! The sisters are amazing and sweet.”
Another reviewer called the product a “godsend.” And another: “simply magical.”
But under California’s new marijuana legislation, Sisters of the Valley may have to either move to another jurisdiction or shutter. According to the Associated Press, many cities across California have prohibited commercial (and sometimes, personal) cultivation because of the time pressure of the March 1 deadline, even as they are unsure about whether bans are the appropriate way to proceed.
As for Kate, she has pledged to go “valley town to valley town” preaching the powers of cannabis until California lawmakers acknowledge that marijuana is “Mother Nature’s most effective medicinal plant.”
Her operation continues to grow. As of early Monday, a notice on the Etsy page announced that orders were coming faster than the sisters could meet them. Despite the moratorium in Merced, Kate refuses to voluntarily stop selling.
The Merced City Council “could shut me down,” Kate told Vice. “But I’ve already made it clear to all of them that they’re going to have to shut me down.”