Located close to the town of Merced in the Central Valley, which generates over half of the fruit, nuts and vegetables grown in the country, the Sisters of the Valley grow and reap their very own cannabis plants.
However, despite the moniker, the sisterhood stresses that its seven members don’t belong to any order of the Catholic Church.
“We are against religion, so we are not a religion. We consider ourselves Beguine revivalists, and we reach back to pre-Christian practices,” said Sister Kate, who founded the sisterhood in 2014.
The group says its Holy Trinity is the marijuana plant, specifically hemp, a form of marijuana which has really low levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in the plant which gives a high.
The hemp is turned by members into cannabis-based balms and ointments, which they say have the ability to enhance health and well-being.
More than two dozen U.S. states have legalized some form of marijuana for medical or recreational use, but the drug remains illegal at the federal level. California legalized recreational use of marijuana in November 2016.
“A sister becomes a sister through a commercial relationship and making a wage or a commission and we want to grow this way because we want to free the girls, we don’t want to make them more dependent,” said Kate.
She said the group had approximately $750,000 in sales last year, the most since it began selling products in January 2015.
President Donald Trump’s administration and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime critic of marijuana legalization, have stressed some in the nation’s nascent legalized marijuana industry.
But the “weed nuns” say the new administration has reinforced their resolve.
“The thing Trump has done for us is set a fire under our butts to get started in another country,” said Kate. “Our response to Trump is Canada.” The group sells online to Canada, and expects to start an operation there in two months.
Sister Kate embraced the nun persona after she took part in a Occupy Wall Street demonstration in 2011 dressed as a Catholic nun, a look that led her to be well known by protesters as “Sister Occupy.” According to her they have receive a number of hate calls. However, according to her, “the Catholics understand what we’re doing.”