Sister Kate is a dope-smoking American nun who founded the medicinal-marijuana empire Sisters of the Valley.
Her life is so extraordinary, an intriguing documentary, Breaking Habits has just been made about her.
Sister Kate, now 60, was once Christine Meeusenfled, a high-flying corporate exec, happily married for 17 years to a husband who cared for their three children while she went out to work..
The dream marriage collapsed when she discovered that her husband had allegedly embezzled her life’s savings. Not only that, she found she was not even legally married – he turned out to be a bigamist.
Penniless and homeless, she went to live with her brother in California, one of the few states to have legalised medicinal cannabis. For a while they worked together, growing and selling a cannabis crop, before she branched out on her own. Sisters of the Valley now turns over more than $US1 million a year.
Though she wears a nun’s habit, Sister Kate does not believe in religion. “We are not Catholic nuns. We are cannabis crusading activist nuns,” she says.
“We grow non-psycho-active cannabis, and we are daring the law to shut us down.”
The documentary is vague about the legal status of Sisters of the Valley. There are Federal, State and local laws to contend with, but so far it seems Sister Kate has managed to navigate her way through the legal minefield.
Sisters of the Valley sells cannabis-infused salves, tonics and tinctures worldwide, and the product comes with official certification that it contains the CBD (non-psycho-active) strain of cannabis with only traces of high-inducing THC.
The film is also vague about the number of women who have joined Sister Kate’s order, which she describes as a feminist cooperative of spiritual healers – a combination of ancient beliefs and Native American beliefs.
The sisters live simply, plant their crops according to cycles of the moon, pray as they brew their concoctions and welcome visitors by waving a bundle of smoking sage to put them in a soothing mood.
They also smoke a lot of THC-high cannabis, which they are careful to buy from other growers, to underline the fact that they are not growing their own.
British film-maker Rob Ryan was script writer and director for Breaking Habits, using a mix of home videos and interviews with Sister Kate and members of her family, as well as Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke, who takes a tough stance on cannabis.
“They’re drug dealers and they’re trying to say it’s medicine,” he said.
Sister Kate agreed to cooperate with the documentary but was disappointed with the way it focussed on guns and violence rather than emphasise the healing qualities of cannabis.
“Our most famous case is a little girl who averaged 100 seizures a day, and she’s now 15 months seizure-free after using our product,” she said.
“We tried to get her in Breaking Habits but she got cut out for guns. Still, the film brings attention to the sisterhood and our cause.”
Breaking Habits opens on April 18 at Luna Leederville and Luna Outdoor, with advance screenings on April 17.
Watch the trailer…