In the heart of California’s Central Valley, where the air is infused with the unmistakable scent of cannabis, a group of unconventional women, the Sisters of the Valley, are redefining spirituality and entrepreneurship. Led by the dynamic Sister Kate, this sisterhood cultivates CBD hemp plants, creates infused products, and challenges societal norms with a blend of humour, activism, and a strain of rebellion.
The group, often referred to as “the weed nuns,” is not affiliated with the Catholic order or any other religious organisation. In fact, Sister Kate, also known as Christine Meeusen, made this adamantly clear during my conversation with her: “We don’t represent any religion… We reach back to pre-Christian practices.”
Our conversation, which was filled with laughter, can be pretty much summed up with this one statement from Sister Kate:“If Congress can classify pizza as a vegetable, then consider me a nun.”
I had to pinch myself when I first began my interview with Sister Kate. Not only was I engaging in conversation with a nun, but a weed-farming one. The intrigue was undeniable and with a myriad of questions swirling in my mind, we began our discussion by delving into Sister Kate’s extraordinary journey that ultimately led to the establishment of Sisters of the Valley in 2013.
During our interview, Sister Kate confessed that she first started producing weed after divorcing her husband. In this period, Kate and her three children left their conventional life and moved to California where she transitioned from a career in telecommunications to providing medical marijuana to terminal patients.
In the fall of 2009, Sister Kate established a non-profit cannabis collective which then officially opened its doors in 2010. Sister Kate then expanded her efforts and began developing teas and tinctures. These products offered healing benefits without the need for smoking.
“After relocating to California with my three kids, and my brother with his two boys, our household expanded to six kids. At that point, I was already involved in cultivating and delivering cannabis for individuals dealing with serious illnesses and it became evident that the prevailing cannabis culture was primarily focused on catering to recreational users, often overlooking the needs of the sick and dying. This realisation fueled my commitment to providing support to those facing health challenges,” the nun revealed.
So then, in 2013, Sister Kate began to formulate a plan to produce and distribute weed to those in need, shifting the focus from marijuana as a recreational substance to a medicinal aid.
For Sister Kate it’s not just about challenging the system; it’s about serving the community and empowering women. Sister Kate’s unconventional journey into nunhood reflects a rebellion against established norms. She emphasises: “Everything about us is about female empowerment: women owning property, and women making the rules.”
During my conversation with Sister Kate, I asked her what people’s initial reaction to her unconventional nunhood was. Sister Kate emphasised that the Sisters of the Valley go beyond spirituality, they are entrepreneurs dedicated to supporting women in business. Their practices, influenced by moon cycles, draw parallels with historical female communities like the Beguines, a group of women in the Middle Ages, who dedicated their lives to religious devotion without formally joining any religious order.
Sister Kate explained: “If you are a professional, we see how it can be a strong message to the public. You know they are in their uniform, so you know that they are expected to perform a certain way or behave. As time passed, I realised that this was something people missed. When I started to wear a nun’s dress at protests, people used to come to me. I remember in San Francisco when a guy came towards me and told me, ‘Sister, I’m considering killing myself’ I ended up talking to him for an hour. I don’t know if I changed something, but I think I did. The point is that I learned that people missed this presence among them.”
Sister Kate also shared a memorable encounter with a woman who confided in her about struggles with alcohol addiction and a recent job loss. As the woman tearfully poured out her troubles, Sister Kate offered a unique solution, asking, “Do you ever smoke cannabis?” The woman, bewildered, asked, “What kind of nun are you?” In response, Sister Kate humorously asserted: “The kind of nun that’s going to bring you cannabis tomorrow if you meet me.”
Sister Kate provided the woman with the address of a local restaurant, assuring her that a box of cannabis would be waiting. The result? The woman decided to give it a try and eventually quit alcohol. Remarkably, they remain in touch to this day, and Sister Kate emphasises how such stories fuel her commitment to her journey.
Like any business, the Sisters face challenges, including the lack of a business permit for hemp cultivation. However, their resilience shines through. Sister Quinn, the team’s social content creator, for instance, uses platforms like TikTok and Instagram to connect with a global audience.
In 2014, the Sisters of the Valley expanded their operations to Mexico. When I asked Sister Kate about this expansion, she answered: “It was not as easy as we thought at the beginning… Some individuals were motivated solely by a desire to become famous. However, we now have a very good team of Sisters in Mexico. Our Sisters demonstrate flexibility, often travelling to the US for work and bringing products back to Mexico.”
I asked Sister Kate about some recent headlines posted by Aljazeera, about how the Sisters of The Valley were taking over the narcos, and if there was any truth behind it. Sister Kate exploded into a laugh saying: “It was quite amusing when I came across the headline about ‘taking out the narcos’.The idea seemed ludicrous to me because, at the moment, our focus in Mexico revolves around the production and sale of mushroom coffee. Engaging in the cultivation and sale of actual weed would not only land us in trouble but also make us a potential target. Given that growing cannabis is illegal in Mexico, our Sisters, with their medical permits, are actively involved in the field of medicine. In Mexico, they are certified practitioners in specific medical fields, emphasising our commitment to legality and a responsible approach to our operations.”
When asked whether Sister Kate would like to expand even more, her answer was a simple yes: “Our dream is to expand. In fact, we have created a space on Patreon where people can pay 5 dollars just for one month, and then cancel it, but in that month, they can download a book of our custom, and then they have to fill out a very detailed questionnaire. Then if they want to come visit, we have information about them.”
During the interview, Sister Kate also shed some light on the diverse range of products offered by Sisters of the Valley. The mushroom coffee, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, proves to be a blessing for those experiencing chronic pain. Sister Kate personally enjoys it for brain clarity, focus, and mood stabilisation. Additionally, the products include CBD with its anti-inflammatory properties. The Sisters collaborate with a lab in Colorado, ensuring constant innovation in formulations using the plants grown on their California property.
In an industry dominated by stigmas, Sister Kate’s humour shines through. She left me with this thought: “The idea is that the Sisters set up their own business, set up their own commerce, have their own store. [They] start out by earning either through wholesale or as an agent, but always plan to be making their own medicine and having their own little territory.… Everything about us is about female empowerment: women owning property, and women making the rules.”
Signing off, Sister Kate exclaimed: “We need more badass women.”