Sister Kate of the Sisters of the Valley first encountered cannabis as medicine after a doctor suggested it for menopausal symptoms more than 10 years ago.

Formerly a finance administrator in the corporate realm, Sister Kate became disillusioned with the ways of the world, initially entering the cannabis space with a delivery service when an ancient order of women from France inspired her to change her life forever.

“When I first read of the Beguines, that really connected me to an ancient way of life and I imagined we could replicate that way of life here,” Sister Kate pondered at her desk in the Sisters' Merced, California ranch compound.

“I imagined that they were women like us – that they were mature women who lived communally with their houses together in a centralized location. They worked together for the community, and the greater good.”

The Beguines were an order of women dressed in habits, who served the communities of France from the late 12th through the 17th centuries. Devoted to serving its communities, records show they were apothecaries or medicine makers. They also earned their living through the textile industry, weaving fabric, and making clothing - providing many services to the communities they served in often rural settings.

“We can safely assume their garments and clothing were made from hemp,” Sister Kate added with a wink. “And they were respected and allowed to own land. Men worked with them, but did not own property. We find that in ancient Native American cultures, too. It was the women who put down roots, stayed in one place, and cared for the community.”

It makes perfect sense for the women of the world to be the nurturers, the caregivers. It truly does take a village – now more than ever, and a few beneficial plants in the proverbial pot doesn’t hurt.

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Like the Beguines, the Sisters of the Valley are not part of the Catholic Church, though they are religious. Unlike the Beguines, the Sisters have created their own vows to live by.

“We are required to have six vows,” Sister Kate informed. “A vow of servitude – which is making medicine with the cannabis plant, in serving the people; 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.”

The Sisters are celibate during the moon cycles and medicine-making sessions, which are performed as a sacred ritual, with sage burned in an initial cleansing of the work space, candles lit, and meditative music playing softly in the background. Their actions during the ceremony are purposeful and respectful to the plant. Likened to a Japanese tea ceremony, the bud and materials are poured into each vessel in one fluid movement.

Sisters fought back against cannabis ban

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The successful operation’s path to righteous medicine making has not been easy. It has been wrought with stumbling blocks along the way, as the County of Merced in the heartland of California banned the cultivation of cannabis.

Sister Kate’s corporate savvy came in handy as she fought back, proving to the county (and its local U.S. Post Office) that the Sisters' CBD (cannabidiol) only strains measured in at or below the required 0.3 percent for activated THC, allowing them to call it hemp and ship product across city, county and state lines.

This use of semantics was put into play by the Department of Agriculture in 2014 on the heels of Charlotte’s Web's fame for helping children with epilepsy. Though the new rule further adds confusion to products made from industrial hemp with low CBD ratios, it gives a green light to CBD-only makers, allowing them to continue helping the masses.

The Sisters' tincture, salve and oils are made with the highest quality organic CBD cannabis strains, and are available via its shop on the popular site, Etsy; and via its web site, Sisters of the Valley.

“We are healers,” Sister Kate continued. “We heal with the medicine we make and with our words. We heal when we tell someone who was just raided and lost their job in the cannabis community, ‘you are right, and they are wrong.’ We heal when we contribute positively in the world. This is God’s plant and we are doing His good work. People are healing and that’s really all that matters.”

Photos: Sister Kate and Sister Darcy sage the kitchen space prior to the medicine-making ceremony (Sharon Letts photo).