If you don’t know them by name, you probably do by reputation. Maybe it was that Aubrey Plaza video smoking a joint with nuns. Or reading about the cannabis-loving sisters in VICE and Rolling Stone. Born of the Occupy movement, the Sisters of the Valley are non-religious, New Age nuns styled after the Beguine nurses of Medieval Europe who are known for their handmade, plant-based medicines and unrepentant, yet compassionate activism.
As longtime fans, we were thrilled to finally chat with a few sisters from the Central Valley of California to hear their stories and lift the veil on what drives these “weed nuns.”
MG: Sister Kate, as the founder, what led you to start all of this?
Sister Kate: I was a consultant. I helped and launched new businesses in the service industry. Over 15 years, I amassed, through my small consulting company, over $1M that my husband moved into accounts in his own name and left me penniless with three kids. Then I learned, shockingly, that the courts really don't consider it stealing if your partner takes it from you.
There was no help in any direction in America. It was disgusting to me how there was no help for me, from anywhere. I borrowed, begged, and stole, and continued the battle until 14 years later [when] I got a third of the money back and, through that money, bought this farm. We started growing cannabis and started a collective.
MG: So how did you go from cannabis collective to Sisters of the Valley?
Sister Kate: Before I was growing regular THC weed, I didn't know the difference between CBD or THC. All the talk in those days was indica and sativa. We had about 70 clients that were referred to us through doctors—I made sure it was very legal and it was small. But I realized after three or four years that if I stayed in the THC business, it would always be local.
At the same time, I became active in the Occupy movement. The whole backstory is, the day that Michelle Obama tried to talk to Congress about how unhealthy our children's meals are, Congress filibustered and met a week later to use taxpayer dollars to declare pizza as a vegetable, so our meals would appear healthier than they are.
“When Congress declared pizza a vegetable, I declared myself a nun and I went down to Occupy as a nun and I got what I thought was my 15 minutes of fame.”
I thought that was it. But over those four years of protesting, while I was also delivering cannabis to dying patients and taking care of three children and my brother, I felt there was no life for me. We grew our own food, we gardened, we grew cannabis, and we delivered it to sick and dying people. And then I went to protest.
As people got to know me during protests, they would say, “We need to formalize this.” I would say, “No. When one person gets dressed up in religious garb, that's crazy. You don't want to follow someone who's crazy.” I was making a statement: Where are the clergy?
Protesting led me into discussions with many smart and interesting women and men, feminist men, who were like, “No, you really need to formalize something new—make a new age order of nuns.” So that's what we are. We're the new age order of nuns, and we were born of the Occupy movement.
MG: How did you want to define this new age order of nuns?
Sister Kate: Well, men dominate the corporate world—that’s what had me working my ass off to build a nest egg. After the experience of having that nest egg stolen by another white man, I came out having a pretty bad attitude about white guys. Now, I say white guys over 50, so that I’m not painting a brush on all the young guys.
I knew that if I was ever going to start over and put my sweat to something that I'm gonna build, it's gonna be for the women.
“We don't want to be selling words. The planet has enough words. We want women to own property and businesses. That's the point. Because we think the gentler way of healing the planet is by having women own and control more assets.”
My vision was that it wouldn't be a nonprofit (and we are not one). It wouldn't be a religion. [But] that it would [lead to owning] properties so we can subsidize housing for those who can't afford their own. Women have been giving away their sweat and tears to nonprofits for 2000 years and it's not helping them. They still suffer the brunt of all poverty in all nations.
My vision was that we'd be more like our ancestral Beguines. The Beguines were the first nurses in the castles of Europe. We relate to them because they had to stand by with their cannabis in their bag while the old white doctors came and put leeches on the son—the king's epileptic son—when they had the medicine for that... In the same way, we have to stand back with our medicine and watch chemo and radiation sometimes kill people without the benefit of restoration from healing plants.
These women lived together, worked together, prayed together. They did not take vows, so they were allowed to leave, get married, have children, come back later in life if they wanted, or build or buy a house near the enclave and continue working and serving the enclave. But because they would not become Christian or this or that, they essentially went extinct and were accused of witchcraft and most of what they created was destroyed.
MG: Clearly, your message and mission has hit with people here and around the world. Sister Maria, being from New Zealand, how did you hear about the Sisters?
Sister Maria: I grew up in New Zealand, sort of second generation Chinese immigrants. Then I worked in sales, promotion, and marketing in the UK. I did a decade with Pepsi and Simon Fuller with the Spice Girls. Then I got that feminine thing: I wanna go home and have babies. I want a nest. I had that homing instinct.
So around 35, I decided to go home. I was parenting and, because schooling was important, I picked the best school in the region. I moved to that town and I got my kids in that school. I went to that town thinking this was a big sacrifice and that I had to find something for me because I didn't really like the people. I was kind of isolating myself. About the second day I moved into the house, I found Sisters of the Valley on Facebook.
I researched and really dug deep. What I found was all these things I had within me already, but I hadn't put them into any formal order. I don't believe in any particular religion, do you know what I mean? I was brought up by my mum to believe in Buddhism and reincarnation and UFOs—completely out-there. But that means I'm open.
I went to visit Kate and spent five days on the farm. I didn’t want to leave. She sat me down and she said, “No, you have to go home and save your sisters. That's what this is about. I trust you. You have to be a general. You have to be a leader and you have to go and teach the women of New Zealand.”
“I feel like it's been in my DNA for a very long time and it's just resurfaced again. I've been given the torch and I want to carry it.”
MG: And Sister Kass, what called you to the sisterhood?
Sister Kass: I was 24 years old and I had a two-year-old daughter. I had just got out of college for medical insurance, billing, and coding, so I did that for quite a while. But I had seen Sister Kate on the news and I was looking for a job at the time, so I came in for an interview. It was an interview, and I basically never left. That was back in 2016.
MG: How was the transition to Sisterhood for you?
Sister Kass: Well, when I first started working for Sister Kate, I wasn't a sister. I just came in, did my job, and came home. But I always used cannabis personally. I get really bad migraines. I have really bad anxiety, so I already knew about the plant. It was meant for me to become a sister because I was on board with whatever Kate was saying about the plant and us women working together.
MG: And Sister Sophia, would love to hear your story too.
Sister Sophia: I was born in South Africa. In South Africa, we were in dire straits with apartheid—and civil unrest, rightfully so. They tried to kidnap me at the age of seven or eight. That was a cue for my dad that it was time to get out of South Africa and migrate to America.
In 2017, I found the sisterhood. The sisterhood is steeped in being the conduit of the plant and also the voice of the marginalized and women. I felt that was the right thing to do, bringing my South African experience and the experience of my [daughter's health issues] into this and going, okay, this is calling me. I left Michigan. I left my family behind. And it took me a while to get Sister Kate's attention.
MG: What does that mean to be a conduit of the plant?
Sister Kass: I think it's healing for us because we get the word out about the plant. When I first joined with Sister Kate, not a lot of people were into CBD. They didn't know about it, so they feared it in a way because when [they'd] hear “cannabis,” they'd just automatically think, “Oh, you're going to get high off of it.” I think it's more of us taking the plant and the knowledge of it and passing it to other people, and showing what it can do.
Sister Sophia: For me, it means that the silent, intelligent plant that has been demonized can have yet another voice to propagate its seeds across our nation and on our planet. It's about what the plant needs to do. I'm just the messenger. That's all I am.
MG: The moon plays a big role in your medicine making. Can one of you tell us about that?
Sister Kass: We make medicine on a full moon and basically it's more feminine for us to do it by moon cycle. Each product that we make comes with a sticker on the bottom to show what moon cycle we made it in. It's a way of us coming together with the plant and Mother Nature and having that meditative time—being with the plant and making the medicine under the full moon. It just does something to us.
MG: And when you each get high, what’s your ritual?
Sister Maria: As far as my ritual, I'm a roller. I love rolling. I've always been a very good roller. I'm a bit of a fancy roller. It's my purest harmony to go through that whole process and have a nice filter and light it up.
Sister Kass: I kind of do it when I'm in my own space. If I'm by myself, that's when I tend to. I guess I enjoy it more. I have two crazy kids, so I like to come in the room and hide. You know, have my me time. Even if it's for like 10 minutes, I'll take all that 10 minutes in.
Sister Sophia: My ritual is very personal. I do it before I do yoga—before I do any kind of stretching in the evening. I actually communicate with the plant and set an intention if I have a specific target, a focus, a goal. It could be to move through my vinyasa in a very intentional way, or working on a certain pose, or working on hitting a weight or a goal. For me, it's about that. It's setting the intentions, talking to the plant, praying over the plant. Allowing it to understand and feel because, in my humble opinion, it's a living being created to help everyone.
MG: You’re all moms and we know that often comes with stigma. Have you faced any of that?
Sister Maria: It's such a good question. My family was very concerned about this move to become public and what that would mean to my children. What we've both learned, me and my kids, is that they have come along with me on their educational journey and the knowledge that they have is as much knowledge as I have because I've shared everything with them.
Sister Kass: A lot of people just assume that if you smoke weed, you're a bad mom. But, if a mom at the end of the day can have a glass of wine, I figure why not? Why can't I have a joint? My kids, they know it's medicine for me. So they see that it helps their mom when I have a migraine or I'm just not feeling really good about myself.
MG: Looking ahead, what's your hope for the future of the Sisters of the Valley?
Sister Sophia: I hope that we can help as many out there as possible. We ship globally, however, our message doesn't get to everybody globally. Not just [from] us, but the whole cannabis industry. That message is about this good plant—and plant-based medicines like mushrooms, where psychologists, psychiatrists, doulas, and everybody is moving toward.
My hope, and my prayers, and my dreams are to see us move farther away from Big Pharma. Big Pharma has caused a lot of heartache, and a lot of deaths, and a lot of unnecessary treatments where people have exacerbated their incomes and their financial ways of living—especially the poor, the marginalized, the people that can't have access to this plant. I want them all to have access to this plant and other good plant-based medicines that can assist them.
“We can't be like Big Pharma. We can't. We can't make it so unattainable.”
MG: Anything you want the world to know before we say goodbye?
Sister Kass: I want more people to know the plant and what it does, and that it's about way more than just getting high. I will say one thing: We ship worldwide. I want everybody to know that we ship worldwide.
Sister Sophia: You don't have to be a sister to be part of the mission. You don't have to be a brother to be part of the mission. The mission—our mission—is cultivated through like-minded souls that live and breathe and walk and talk the same talk.