Sister Kate and Sister Darcy, a pair of self-ordained new age “nuns” based in Merced, California, are on a holy mission: help make “marijuana a healing industry instead of a stoner industry,” as they recently put it. The Sisters of the Valley, as they call themselves, have converted the garage of their three-bedroom into a cannabis grow house slash “abbey.” They’re not affiliated with the Catholic Church or any other “earthly religion” — instead, their spiritual practice centers around growing weed according to the cycles of the moon and creating CBD-derived products that they “bless” before shipping. Their vestments of choice are long denim skirts, white collared shirts, and nun’s habits.
After learning about the Sisters of the Valley through a report on their recent legal troubles, LA-based photographer duo Shaughn Crawford and John DuBois tracked them down via Facebook and arranged a day-long visit to the sisters’ cannabis farm. The visit resulted in a sublime photo essay that could land the sisters an honorary spot in the stoner duo hall of fame; their style rivals that of Cheech and Chong and Harold and Kumar. The sisters’ business, and the photo essay that documents it, is a fresh approach to the ongoing movement to rebrand pot, to which artists and designers have contributed nearly as much as activists.
“They are two very nice, welcoming women, who speak their minds about cannabis, politics, and spirituality,” John writes in an email. “They are exactly who they present themselves to be, and we were welcomed into their world with open arms.” Cast in hazy light, the photographs document the various elements of this spiritual “order”: A wall calendar scribbled with notes like “made clones” and “cayenne spray”; a refrigerator stuffed with bags of marijuana; salves being poured into jars; the sisters exhaling smoke after a day’s work. Cooking golden oil in crockpots and piously tending to their medicinal plants, the nuns resemble old-school alchemists, defying all visual stereotypes of the tie-dye-clad stoner or outlaw marijuana farmer. The wholesome imagery all illustrates the absurdity of the fact that recent California legislation deems the nuns’ activities illegal.
The sisters are self-aware, though sincere about their spirituality and activism. Sister Kate began dressing in a nun’s habit as a political statement during the Occupy movement, after the US Congress decided to classify pizza as a vegetable. “If pizza was a vegetable, I was a nun. So I put on a nun outfit and started going out to protests, and the movement dubbed me Sister Occupy,” she told the Guardian.
Recently, Etsy shut down the sisters’ shop, so they now sell their cannabidiol tinctures and other CBD-based products on a new website. The sisters also crowdsourcing funds for their independent business, which they hope to expand. Women across the country, they say, have expressed interest in joining their order (cult?). If you like weed and denim skirts, learn more here.