Mexico’s weed ‘nuns’ want to take marijuana back from the narcos

They are part of an international group founded in 2014 called Sisters of the Valley, which has pledged to spread the ‘gospel’ of the healing powers of cannabis

December 29, 2023 08:57 am | Updated 08:58 am IST

A member of Sisters of the Valley trims hemp at a house on the group’s farm in central Mexico.

A member of Sisters of the Valley trims hemp at a house on the group’s farm in central Mexico. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Beneath each full moon on the outskirts of a village in central Mexico, a group of women in nun habits circle a roaring fire, cleanse themselves with burned sage, and give thanks for the moon, animals, and plants.

Then they inhale deeply from a joint and blow clouds of marijuana into the flames.

Despite their clothing, the women are not Catholic or any other religion. They are part of an international group founded in 2014 called Sisters of the Valley, which has pledged to spread the ‘gospel’ of the healing powers of cannabis.

Successful business

In the U.S. , where around two dozen states have legalised recreational marijuana, the group has also launched a successful small business, selling CBD tinctures, oils and salves online, and raking in over $5,00,000 last year.

But in Mexico, where a drug war has ravaged the country and Christianity is embedded in society, the image of a marijuana-smoking nun is more an act of rebellion, the women say. The sisters frequently post on social media, primarily Instagram, where they can be seen caring for cannabis crops, giving workshops, and attending cannabis-related events.

Their product sales are a fraction of that of their U.S. sisters — around $10,000 annually.

While prominent online, the women — five in total — are cautious about giving away too much about the location of their operations. They conduct business out of a two-story concrete false storefront with one finished room.

Legal gray area

Because cannabis sits in a legal gray area in Mexico and much of its production is still tied to criminal organisations, they worry police or local gangsters could arrive to threaten or extort them.

“The Sisterhood is in a totally different context here in Mexico — because of how religious the country is and because of the plant’s ties to cartels,” said one of the nuns, who uses the moniker “Sister Bernardet” online and asked not to give her name for fear of reprisal. In her main job as a homeopathic practitioner, she prescribes marijuana to her patients with cancer, joint pain and insomnia. “We want to take the plant back from the narcos,” she said.

For another nun who works as a church secretary, uses the moniker “Sister Kika” and asked her name not be used, the mission is clear. “It’s time to put an end to this stupidity,” she said.

The Sisters fashion themselves after a lay religious movement, the Beguines, that dates back to the Middle Ages. The group, made up of single women, devoted itself to spirituality, scholarship and charity, but took no formal vows. The Sisters globally say they wear habits to project uniformity and respect for the plant, but they also know it catches media attention.

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