The Sisters of the Valley began in California’s agricultural hub, in the Central Valley, by Sister Kate—also known as Christine Meeusen—after a doctor suggested using cannabis to treat symptoms of menopause. After being helped herself, she then crossed over from the corporate world of finance to the cannabis industry, dawning a new habit, in more ways than one.
Inspired by the Beguines, a non-denominational order of women who served the rural communities of France from the late 12th through the 17th centuries, Sister Kate created six vows that make up the order’s mission.
“A vow of servitude—which is making medicine with the cannabis plant, in serving the people,” she began. “A vow of obedience to the moon cycles, as we make all our medicine within this cycle; a vow of ecology, to protect the earth; a vow of activism, to protect the plant and access to it; a vow of living simply; and a vow of chastity, though we don’t believe you have to be celibate to be chaste.”
Devoted to serving its communities, records show the Beguines were apothecaries or medicine makers using plants for remedies—centuries prior to pharmaceutical use. They were also weavers and made clothing for their communities, with Sister Kate adding, “We can assume their garments were made from hemp.”
The Sisters in California serve some of the poorest agricultural working families in the state, including immigrants who have been working the harvests for decades. They do it for the greater good, for the healing that comes from what they believe to be God’s plant.
The Sisters in Mexico
Sister Luna and Sister Camila first heard of the order in California upon the launch of the documentary Breaking Habits at the Cannes Film Festival in France, profiling the order in California.
“We sent Sister Kate an email letting them know we were starting a cannabis business, and were invited to the farm for as long as we wanted,” Sister Luna shared. “Our first farm stay was two weeks.”
The two were about to enter postgraduate degrees in Mexico—Luna in biomedicine and Camila in social sciences.
“Sister Kate asked us to be members of the order, living in Mexico,” she said. “We were the first Spanish-speaking Sisters to be accepted. It was very emotional and we couldn’t answer right away, but were very happy to accept.”
The Sisters are living, working and attending University in Tijuana in Baja California, just across the border from California.
Tijuana, like Mexico City, has a thriving cannabis community, and the Sisters began teaching plant medicine workshops this year.
Science, Cannabis, and Society
“Our main activity is finishing our postgraduate degrees, with a focus on activism,” Sister Luna explained. “We also want to teach people who want to learn the plant’s many medicinal uses. We present the plant as sacred.”
Sister Luna has a Master’s Degree in biomedicine, with her research and projects focusing on vaccines to fight cancer. Sister Camilla is working toward a PhD in Social Sciences, with her research project on a transfer of scientific knowledge to the cannabis industry.
“Before starting the projects we decided to work on postgraduate studies, since we always like studying and learning,” Sister Luna said. “But we also want to demonstrate and prove that the projects we have are serious.”
The seriousness of their work is meaningful, as they hope to garner respect for their work with cannabis in Mexico, while helping to do away with the negative stigmas associated with cannabis use.
“Our goal is to have credibility and seriousness,” she added. “Our postgraduate courses are indirectly focused on cannabis, since it’s not yet direct research on the plant, but in the future, when we finish our courses, we will focus on research issues within the cannabis industry from what we’ve learned.”
The connection between science, cannabis, and society is an important one to the Sisters, eventually wanting to set up a research center for medicinal plants, including psychedelics, gaining widespread acceptance in the U.S. today.
Merging Old Ways With New Meaning
“Our grandmothers in Mexico used many herbs, including cannabis to heal,” Sister Luna explained. “They used many teas and herbal remedies—in ritual and practice. The most traditional remedy that we know of is an alcohol maceration that’s smeared on muscles for pain.”
Otherwise known as a poultice, this is an age-old method of applying plant compounds topically.
In their workshops, the Sisters teach how to make extracts in a “simple and friendly way,” with the ultimate goal of having a “more inclusive community and equal rights for all.”
“The stigma of the plant still causes discomfort to many people who would otherwise like to learn,” she added. “Our own research and knowledge; along with witnessing others heal, and our own experiences with healing from the plant, causes us to be committed to informing all people of its benefits.”
The Sisters of the Valley are known for planting and making remedies by the full moon cycle, and this is part of what they share with the participants of their workshops.
According to Almanac.com, “seeds will absorb more water during the full moon and the new moon, when more moisture is pulled to the soil surface. This causes the seeds to swell, resulting in greater germination and better-established plants.”
Tolerance and Acceptance
As of this writing, the Mexican Senate is deliberating on a Bill to legalize both the medicinal and adult recreational use of cannabis. This is happening, while the industry is already emerging, with private clubs as dispensaries already operating within a gray area, since its Supreme Court voted to do away with prohibition in October of 2018.
Within this gray area, Copa Cannabica, Mexico’s cannabis cup, is already operating throughout the country, with one just held in Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s wine country, just under two hours from the Tijuana border.
Both Sister Luna and Sister Camila were in attendance.
“We had not been to a competition before, but found it was a good place to make contacts and see how the cannabis market has grown in the country,” Sister Luna said. “Precautions still need to be taken, but education on the plant is happening now, and the products we are seeing are beautifully made.”
As far as legalization goes, Sister Luna said they are aware of the skills of the Mexican people in growing cannabis already. The products are already here, the plant is already being grown in mass quantities, with many interested in the industry on many levels.
“Sadly, the people of Mexico have a lot of knowledge in growing cannabis, but they have been the last to benefit monetarily in the illicit market,” she continued. “Hopefully, in the legal market, this knowledge can be put to good use and the people can earn a living wage in the cannabis industry in Mexico.”
Though corporate involvement is expected in any emerging industry, the Sisters of the Valley in Mexico dread the prospects, and hope the citizens of the country can ultimately benefit.
“We in Mexico have lived with the violence of the Drug War for a very long time,” she said, knowingly. “When we officially legalize the plant, drug traffickers will surely take advantage of laundering money. The cartel’s money, infrastructure, and equipment will no doubt be part of the industry here initially. We just hope the rules will be written fairly for the people, so they can thrive—not just financially, but by allowing the education and healing that follows legalization to happen.”