What you know about nuns might extend little further than the plot of Sister Act. While Whoopi Goldberg and company may have had to fight for their right to party, she’s got nothing on these “Sisters of the Valley.” What these ladies do for the sick is a trip.
In a three-bedroom house in Merced County, California, live Sister Darcy and Sister Kate. Dressed modestly in blue blouses and long skirts, they have made a vow of chastity and start every morning with what they call “bible time.”
So far so stereotypical. But if you think that these women are just any old nuns, you’re jumping to conclusions – and it’s time to kick that habit. These two are nuns with a difference. Their “bible time” refers to email correspondence generated by their social media channels and online store.
Not too long ago, Sister Darcy, 24, was serving burgers at a Jack in the Box. Back then, she was plain old Darcy Johnson. Her comrade Sister Kate – formerly known as Christine Meeusen, 55 – earned the nickname “Sister Occupy” when she donned a nun’s outfit during the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Meeusen lived in Amsterdam, working as a financial consultant, for a decade. After a messy divorce, she moved back to the U.S. to start a business with her brother. After they fell out, Meeusen needed help with the business. A friend introduced her to Johnson.
Johnson had worked on an organic farm in New Zealand. Having just returned to the States, she was looking for a more fulfilling way of life. After Meeusen explained a little about her business plans, Johnson was on board and relocated from Washington state to Merced.
However, their business venture is a little, let’s say, unorthodox for the religiously inclined. Sister Darcy and Sister Kate have created a blossoming line of sprays, oils, tinctures and salves made from their own home-grown marijuana.
Although Sisters Darcy and Kate are in the habit of dressing as nuns, their allegiance is strictly non-religious, despite Sister Kate’s Catholic roots. Instead, they claim to be on a spiritual quest to heal the sick with their marijuana-based products rather than prayer.
Sister Kate told Tech Insider, “When people say, ‘Well, they’re not real nuns,’ my answer is that there are no nuns. They’re going extinct in this country.” The Sisters subscribe to a blend of new-age and spiritual principles and say that their close-knit, simple lifestyle and routines are little different from those of traditional nuns.
The Sisters grow the marijuana in their garage. It’s a cottage industry, with their oils and balms being produced in their home kitchen and the plant being boiled in crockpots on their stove. The finished products are sold on an online store.
The products that these nuns produce are high in Cannabidiol – or CBD – one of the ingredients that gives marijuana its medicinal quality. The products do not, however, contain THC – the ingredient that creates the “high.”
The Sisters make an oil, which they believe prevents seizures, “and a million other things,” said Sister Kate. Their arsenal against ailments also includes a multi-purpose salve that the Sisters claim “cures migraines, hangovers, earaches, diaper rash and toothaches.” Thorough.
Their production process is kept in strict synchronicity with the moon cycle. Incantations are cited and rituals performed as the Sisters work, and every bottle and jar is given a blessing before it is shipped to their customers, they say.
Selling their products mostly via online store Etsy, their business was thriving and taking in orders from all over the world. Their sales amounted to $40,000 a month, and they were expecting to make up to a cool half-million dollars in 2016.
Their profits have been ploughed back into the business in order to make ever higher quantities of their products. They are also on a recruitment drive around the U.S. By law, however, they are limited on the amount of marijuana they can grow.
Making marijuana-based products was never going to be without controversy. The Sisters of the Valley Etsy store was recently closed down for including the words “drug testing” and “THC” in its product description.
But their business faces an even bigger threat from local legislation. Despite the growing of marijuana for medical purposes being legal in California for the last 19 years, a glitch in the system gave cities the opportunity to impose their own bans.
As a result, cities around California have made it illegal to grow, cultivate and distribute marijuana or marijuana-based products. “We are completely illegal,” Sister Kate told the Guardian newspaper. “They made criminals out of us overnight.”
The nuns, however, aren’t just going to take this lying down. “We want women in every city selling medicine,” Sister Kate told the Guardian. “Women can change this industry and make it a healing industry instead of a stoner industry.”
Their “nun” branding may seem like a shtick, but to the Sisters it’s about empowerment. Sister Kate said they want people to look at them and think, “Those women know about cannabis. They know about pain relief. Our brand is uniting the women who feel the same.”