Freezer Stash 1: Sister Kate's Cannabis Devotion
Our first Freezer Stash release is our 2019 interview with Sister Kate, who declared herself a nun in 2014 and has dedicated herself to compassionate activism. Her company is based outside of Merced, California.
- In Central Valley’s agricultural hub, hemp producers the Sisters of CBD grow cannabis according to the cycles of the moon.
- The Sisters have encountered hostility from disapproving Merced residents.
- Founder Sister Kate, who is not an ordained nun, met Donny Shell at a Hollywood rooftop screening of a documentary about her, Breaking Habits.
Alex Halperin’s Cannabis Dictionary
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This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Alex Halperin (00:07):
Welcome to WeedWeek. I’m Alex Halperin.
Donnell Alexander (00:09):
And I’m Donnell Alexander.
Alex Halperin (00:11):
This is our special WeedWeek podcast for our Patreon supporters. Thanks so much.
Donnell Alexander (00:16):
Thanks a lot. We’re glad you’re here.
Alex Halperin (00:18):
This is an interview Donnell did on a recent trip. So, he’s going to tell you a bit about it.
Donnell Alexander (00:23):
Yeah. Our guest is sister Kate, and she’s in a town outside of Merced, California. That’s about an hour North of Fresno and sister Kate is one of the, when we talk about the industry changing in the so-called suits coming in and the people with no sense of history and no sense of humor who don’t even smoke pot? Sister Kate is not that person. She did a bong rip right before we got started. And sister Kate is someone who comes from the occupy movement. That’s her origin in this scene. She’s not a sister in the Catholic faith sense. Although I have to say one of the more interesting elements of the visit there was talking to one of the nuns. I believe she said she had been a Franciscan nun for 15 years. She said the biggest difference between service there and what happened at Kate’s places is that she doesn’t have ministers chasing her around, trying to screw her anymore. They are very candid nuns. They call it a sisterhood. And I think if you see how they have to sort of band together in that town, in a very conservative town in central California, you’ll understand why it feels like one. I haven’t been around a lot of nuns, but I’ve been in Catholic churches and I know a very sort of specific holy vibe, but this one isn’t necessarily associated with organized religion. They are sort of already organized anarchists. So, if anyone knows sister Kate, they know her from the documentary Breaking Habits. And I will be very frank and say that it’s not very good. I saw a screening of it. That’s actually where I met Kate here in Hollywood. And one of the best things ever to happen to me in the middle of a bad film in the third act, which was a struggle, one of the nuns came over and hit me off with a pre-rolled and made that last endurable. But they have a really politicized outlook. And maybe the thing I was trying to say about there not being room for people like her in this new sleek really professionalized cannabis industry, I hope there is because there are so many ideas and so much energy and so much love of cannabis.
Alex Halperin (02:22):
Did you go to their, what do they call it? It’s a convent?
Donnell Alexander (02:26):
Their farm. I drove up to the farm, it’s outside of the city. They’re just groves and orchards all around them.
Alex Halperin (02:33):
How many people were there?
Donnell Alexander (02:35):
I don’t know how many actually live there. There are two houses. I came across five or six different people who are working there. I don’t know who counts as a nun, in habit I guess three. It’s not a traditional habit, it has a marijuana symbol on the front of it.
Alex Halperin (02:52):
Donnell Alexander (02:53):
We’ll have a picture on our Instagram, and you can check us out at @weedweeknews, and you can see what sister Kate and the rest of the sisters look like.
Alex Halperin (03:01):
Alright. And here’s our trip to central California.
But Obama, he told us he loves us no matter what. And Abe Lincoln, he taught us, don’t settle for what you’ve got. And JFK said, don’t ask what this country can do for you. But Donald Trump says whatever the hell he’s base wants him to.
Sister Kate (03:29):
To hear the rest of this song by sisters of the Valley, stay tuned after the episode.
Donnell Alexander (03:35):
I’m here with the star of Breaking Habits. And more than that, actually sister Kate is here in Rosette, California, sister Kate, welcome to the WeedWeek podcast.
Sister Kate (03:47):
Thank you, Donnell. Thank you for coming to see us this long way.
Donnell Alexander (03:51):
Okay. I’m always really interested in making the connection of the physical place that we’re in. Can you describe where we are physically? What are these orchards that are around us?
Sister Kate (04:03):
We’re on a one-acre farm. We call it a farm, even though I don’t know if one acre qualifies, but we’re on a one acre, we’re surrounded by 20 and 30 acres almond farms. There’s been a lot of monocropping going on, which is terrible for the air.
Donnell Alexander (04:17):
Can you explain monocropping?
Sister Kate (04:18):
That means they just grow one thing. We chose this land for a couple of reasons when we moved out of the city. The city told us I couldn’t run the business there. So, we found this farm and when I was talking about monocropping, the air is bad from people just growing one thing. But out here we have some Mennonite farmers that actually grow lots of different things. We settled here because we wanted to be in a spiritual, quiet place, but not too disconnected from civilization.
Donnell Alexander (04:45):
Funny thing about Merced, this is literally the first time I spent any time here in decades in California, but I was an editor of the college paper in Fresno. This story was the coming UC Merced Campus and I imagine that makes it a little more cosmopolitan. Are you just untouched by all that where you are?
Sister Kate (05:07):
No, that’s really important to us. Before we bought here, we looked at other places in Central Valley where we could be part of the firearm community of the Center Valley, but on the edge of it so we could also interface with some enlightened folks sometimes. And I looked, but really Merced County is the only city in the Center Valley that has these three things: a community college, a UC and a railroad station. We like railroads and I think they could save the planet.
Donnell Alexander (05:41):
Tell me more about that.
Sister Kate (05:43):
No, it’s just that I raised my children in Europe. We went everywhere in public transportation. So, rail is the way to transit a lot of people. And the Central Valley’s only got, I think about 8 million people and they’re scheduled to get another 8 million people because of home displacement over the next decade. So where are we going to go with them? And are we just going to keep polluting with our cars?
Donnell Alexander (06:05):
I think that’s where we really get it. To get into who you are and why you’re here. I’m going to let you tell your backstory here. Just how did you get from point A to point B? I know it’s a Byzantine journey. Please tell me how did you get here.
Sister Kate (06:21):
So, before ancestry.com, I did not know that I’m 90% Viking because I think that should be established first, I’m Viking, Viking blood. I raised my children in Europe. I was a consultant. I had a good consulting company, three kids and a husband and I thought a pretty good marriage, but there were lots of secrets. Ultimately, we moved back to Kentucky after eight years in the Netherlands. And I discovered that all of the money that had been earned and saved over that period of time, quite a bit of money, a million to two million, I had been stolen and hidden by him and he made me divorce him basically to find out how much there was and where it was. And that has been going on now for 12 years, actually I have a court hearing again in September, I’m still trying to get half the money back from him.
Donnell Alexander (07:11):
Well I think that’s a mixable bowl, watch Breaking Habits if you want to see more or know more about that part of her story. But the part of the story that concerns WeedWeek specifically is your life and CBD. And I’m looking at a lot of product on your one-acre farm, two houses, what’s the business on how does it work?
Sister Kate (07:30):
So, we make and sell basically three products. We have other products that don’t matter so much, the sustenance for the sisters is a topical salve, that we were aiming for arthritis, pain relief medicine. And what we got was so much more, we get amazing stories of the salve, preventing migraines, taking away skin burns and just lots of uses for it, which we would have never imagined. So, our beeswax of our product line or our flagship product is our topical salve. Two are both just different forms of a CBD drop that you drop in your mouth. So, 90% of our revenue comes from pain relief products that all are tested. We make them by the cycles of the moon, which means we put up a batch on a new moon, we close the batch on a full moon. Every batch is tested by SC labs, the test results travel with them and we ship everywhere in the world. And we have since day one.
Donnell Alexander (08:28):
Well, I guess I have to get to the elephant in the room, you are sister Kate, you’re not a Catholic. You’re not affiliated with Christianity. I generally feel like if women decide they are forming a sisterhood, I don’t question it. But in general, can you explain what your sort of faith or order is for people?
Sister Kate (08:47):
I always like to say, yeah, I can explain it, but then we’d have to kill you. Is that what I usually say? So, there’s some basic premises here. when I was growing up and being taught by the Catholic nuns, there were 350,000 in America, there’s less than 50,000 now. It is clear to me that the Catholic nun is going extinct. The population misses the presence of robed clergy among them.
Donnell Alexander (09:14):
How do you know that?
Sister Kate (09:15):
I know that because in 2014, when Congress declared pizza vegetable, I declared myself a nun, put on an outfit and started to go into every protest. And I got what I thought was my 15 minutes of fame as sister Occupy. While I was out there, it became clear that people didn’t care what kind of nun I was. They just wanted to talk to somebody who is devoted to the people, to a cause and to a compassionate cause specifically.
Donnell Alexander (09:45):
You said something the night we met in Hollywood, that the average age of a new nun is what?
Sister Kate (09:52):
The Average age of a new nun in America is 78 to 80 years old. That’s the average age of a new nut. So that is an order going extinct. If I had to build my order on 78 and 80 years old, I can tell you, we wouldn’t be going very far very fast. So, I wanted young nuns. Essentially after four years of conversation from 2011 until 2015, I was out at protests as a crazy single, when you dress up as a cleric and then go out on your own, that’s one step close to crazy. And I realized it, but I had a debate going. I had a conversation going everywhere I went, Oakland, San Francisco, if we went to protest a bus strike or to stop a boat that would have blood diamonds on it for parking in the coast, I was out as Sister Occupy. It sparked a conversation where people were saying they were clamoring for a new age order. And they would say to me, you must formalize your belief system. And I would say, no, you don’t get it. I’m a lone sole activist nun, I’m trying to make a statement here. In the end we decided not to be a religion. I decided it couldn’t be a religion after four years of debate because religions gave us the mega churches and religions are corrupt and religions are patriarchal. And religions have had the choice for 2000 years to be kind to women or be mean to women and they are mean to women. All of the way they do everything is mean to women. So, can’t be a religion. Should it be a nonprofit of any kind? Nope. The answer to that is the NFL is a nonprofit. Why in the hell would we want to be in that club? And it’s obviously for profit. So, if you examine what’s going on, you end up with no, none of that works. You have to do women owned businesses. It’s the only morally right thing to do right now.
Donnell Alexander (11:28):
You have this order and there’s a philosophical aspect to it, but it’s also part of the business. Can you explain how these things come together?
Sister Kate (11:35):
The business of making salve and tinctures and getting them to the rest of the world is part of our code of being in service to the people. But we consider the woman who cooks for us and the people who clean for us and the woman doing the bookkeeping also part of that medicine making and service to the people.
Donnell Alexander (11:52):
Oh really? How’s that worked?
Sister Kate (11:54):
Well because we are like an elegant, multifaceted monster that has to work together. We have to work together. So, we all consider ourselves a medicine maker, even though we all often stay in our own lane of expertise.
Donnell Alexander (12:08):
And were those some of the medicine makers who staged me just as we entered?
Sister Kate (12:13):
Yes. What we’re trying to do is live a more elegant and charming and graceful lifestyle. And in doing that, we look to our ancient mothers and our ancient mothers we believe organized their lives by the cycle of the moon. We also believe that they believe that one day science will prove that an energy travels with the medicine we make. And if it’s made in a spiritual environment and it’s guarded in a spiritual environment and it’s blessed before it leaves and travels, it’s going to do more healing than if it doesn’t have that. And right now we are working with farmers who want to do some research with us and prove that there’s a vibrational and a potency difference between medicine that’s guarded and made by the women by hand in our ancient ways versus medicine made by a man’s factory.
Donnell Alexander (13:00):
I’d be curious to know how you prove something like that, but that’s neither here nor there, because I’ve been here and I’ve lived here. I can’t imagine how they treat you around town, has it become normalized the presence of you and the sisters?
Sister Kate (13:13):
You came right at such a cusp time. And it’s such a great question. Yeah, something just shifted in the last month. They’ve been very mean to us all along, always been mean. Like when we walk into a city council meeting, if there’s three cops sitting in a row, a couple look up and say, “Oh God, now it’s going to stink in here.” And then all the cops will get up and go walk to the other side of the room or the Mayor would say, What’s your name? Is sister Kate. What’s your real name? You’re not a real nun. And just a lot of disrespect.
Donnell Alexander (13:47):
What do you tell them when they say things? Are you giving your government name to them? Is that how it works?
Sister Kate (13:51):
Yeah. I just do it their way. When I’m in their courts, I do it their way, but then I go home and put up their picture and throw darts at it or something like that.
Donnell Alexander (13:59):
Well, okay. You said something yesterday. You said that it’s 2% black and why would black people want to live here? What’s it like being a kind of minority in this town? I mean, I don’t know Merced, but I imagine it’s pretty conservative.
Sister Kate (14:14):
Yes. That’s good actually, that’s a nice thing anybody said in a long time that we’re like a minority here because we are, we’re treated like crap. I think black people in LA have made the trip up here to visit us that were born from here. And then I’m like, why did you all leave? And it’s the same thing. It’s because it’s very racist here and they’re farmers. They just don’t like change. I mean, we can’t feel bad for them. They just have a really, really hard time dealing with change. And then they’re basically racist. So, they have a really hard time dealing with any cultural differences. But farm towns are farm towns and we want to have weed nuns in every town in the province, across the planet. So, we better learn to deal with them.
Donnell Alexander (14:57):
Is it a plan, or is this an aspiration? Why do we need this?
Sister Kate (15:00):
We don’t need it. The planet needs us. And it started happening, honey. We got an order going in Denmark, Brazil, New Zealand, Mexico. So yes, it’s already happening. The planet needs compassionate activists women. And our Trinity is sort of service, activism and spirituality. Everything is done. All the work we do for the people is done in a spiritual environment, all the money we make. And the extra time we have spent on activism, we’re progressive activists. We need a new age order. We created a new age order and it has hit a note with women around the world, healing women, activists women. So, our core mission is to change the world. We are here to midwife in the matriarchy. We are here to give a gentle smashing to the patriarchy, and we are here to show the people there’s a better way.
Donnell Alexander (15:51):
Is that a gentle smashing? You make it seem like you’ve seen results aside from the orders that you have there, is it feedback? How do you know that you’re actually making an impression?
Sister Kate (16:02):
When Catholic nuns in multiple orders, in multiple countries asked me to put our spiritual beliefs into a book and make it available for sale. You know that people are paying attention.
Donnell Alexander (16:14):
I was just at a big conference and I saw all the different levels and people who are really struggling, that rare person who’s making money hand over fist, generally not a grower. How are you handling this turbulent and opportunistic time?
Sister Kate (16:28):
It’s really terrible. The powers, the people that are very angry that cannabis is becoming deregulated. The people that are angry that they lost the war.
Donnell Alexander (16:39):
I’m interrupting you because I live in Los Angeles where it feels like settled law. And I know objectively that 80% of the state doesn’t have it and most of the country doesn’t have it. It feels normal. Can you explain that sort of oppression that you’re talking about what it looks like?
Sister Kate (16:52):
We are in the Iowa of California here in the Center Valley. We are in Montana. We are aware they bunker up with their guns and don’t you bring any newfangled ideas in here. This place is just very backward. There are two Californias, there’s been books written about two Californias, there’s the Center Valley and then there’s the coast and it’s hugely different. So, our law enforcement, you have to think of it this way. Our law enforcement for a hundred years have gotten bigger and better tools in order to rip out cannabis plants, which is the easiest job anybody on the planet could have, like, well you get your badge and you’re there to fight bad guys. If you want to pick a gravy job, pick to rip cannabis plants, and then get new vests and new Jeeps. So, you could do it in style, that’s what we’re dealing with here. They’re angry and they’re lashing back. And our cops come in on their day offs to rip cannabis plants. And they still do that.
Donnell Alexander (17:46):
Digging in grounds? How can they even come onto your property?
Sister Kate (17:52):
The Sheriff’s department makes the law in many of these farm towns. So, they pretty much do what they want, they’ve never bothered us. I should be more respectful. They’ve never bothered us and they let us be, but they really do write all the cannabis laws.
Donnell Alexander (18:08):
Maybe that’s going back to the earlier question. Part of the sign that you guys are making some headway is that they don’t bother you.
Sister Kate (18:14):
Well, just like there’s two Californias, there’s two Sheriff’s department. We have the head sheriff Warnke who thinks all cannabis and all hemp is bad. And then we have the rest of his guys who were born in another generation and know better. So, it’s the foot soldiers that we feel the support from, not from the head of the Sheriff’s department. So, we’re dealing with a dual situation here.
Donnell Alexander (18:34):
I’ve been following the local ordinance, how important it’s its changing. I can’t tell what’s going to happen. Do you have a sense of what’s going to happen in Merced County with the hemp regulations? What’s going to be allowed?
Sister Kate (18:46):
Yeah. It’s appearing that our County is doing a moratorium on hemp three or four months, they wanted to do it for two years, but now they backed down because the farmers got angry and we got angry.
Donnell Alexander (18:57):
Why are they angry?
Sister Kate (18:59):
Because the hemp farmer, the farmers here, the almond farmers and the other farmers know that all this monocropping is bad for our air and that hemp could clean the air and they want the other farmers who would do sweet potatoes and other things would like to grow hemp. So, it wasn’t just us that was screaming about the moratorium. It was other farmers. So, they immediately collapsed their goal of getting their laws together from two years to about four months. So now they’re saying that by September, they hope to have their laws in order so it can start taking permits and accepting people. In the meantime, we’re petitioning them to make us a special category of research, so we don’t have to stop doing what we’re doing.
Donnell Alexander (19:36):
Why would you be a special category of research?
Sister Kate (19:38):
There is literally no university student around the world that we’ve ever said no to. So, we’ve had a thesis papers done by a girl in Sweden, from the university of Stockholm who came her four times doing her graduate thesis. We’ve had a girl in Western Kentucky University do two thesis papers on us and then we have quite a bit of UC Merced, CSU Stan in Fresno. We’ve had high schools visit. And these people do their projects. Mostly I’d say 70% of the papers and studies that we engage in. Oh, we’ve also engaged with Stanford where their film group did their graduate film school did a film on us. And most of these cases, I’d say 70% of the subject is echo feminism. And they’re covering that they’re arguing that we’re an eco-feminist religion, even though we haven’t claimed the status or title of religion or done anything, we don’t want that. I always say I’d rather be a cult than a religion today. But the fact of the matter is we’ve been involved in quite a bit of research and there’s no one we say no to. So, we expect that we’ll continue to go on.
Donnell Alexander (20:38):
Yeah. You say a lot of interesting things, but really been grappling with the difference between a cult and religion in specifically about you all, because I was raised as a Jehovah’s witness and I’ve questioned, well, what’s the legitimacy of an actual religion? Which story matters more? Do you really mean that when you say I’d rather be a cult than another religion?
Sister Kate (20:56):
If you look up the meaning of cult, it means to worship. And since we are in prayer services, every new moon and full moon, which is how we’ve organized our life. And we pray over our medicines, every batch it’s opened and closed, and we pray daily. I would say that we’d qualify as a cult. And today with religions being as corrupted as they are in the megachurches, it just seems like I’d rather be in that category.
Donnell Alexander (21:20):
Okay. Thank you. I want to say goodbye, but I also want to ask, any specific events you have coming up? Appearances or products that you’d like to talk about before we split?
Sister Kate (21:31):
In the middle of August, we’re planning on being in LA for another podcast, I think with some other big names in the cannabis business. And then we’ll probably have a performance. Everybody can check us out on Facebook, Sisters of the Valley or on Instagram and these events will be posted.
Alex Halperin (21:50):
All right, that’s our Patreon special episode for this month. Thanks again for your support.
Donnell Alexander (21:53):
We presume it was worthwhile. We’re hoping to have some of our very best content up here and come back. Next month it’ll be even better than this one.
Alex Halperin (22:01):
Alright, Hannah Smith is our producer and Alicia Byer wrote our theme music. Additional music is by the way Andre Bush. See again here soon.
Donnell Alexander (22:10):
Five, six, seven, eight. You know, he’s all about his base, about his base, no feelings. He’s all about his base and his own self dealings. He’s all about his base, about his base appealing to only just his base. Just his base. Yeah. It’s pretty clear who they’re talking to and I can guarantee is not to me or you. whatever happens he’s got just one response. He says what they think to get what he wants. Why is he still talking talking about all those travel bands, you know, it’s hard to fathom, but he’s still got lots of fans. Ooh, if you ain’t never met one, connect the dots. Cause they’re mostly white supremacists and Russian Twitter about, you know, Obama he told us he loves us no matter what. And Abe Lincoln, he taught us, don’t settle for what you’ve got. And JFK said, don’t ask what this country can do for you. But Donald Trump says, whatever the hell his base wants him to. Why? Because he’s all about his base. And it’s unproductive. He’s all about his base and it’s real destructive. He’s all about his base. And it’s uhm reductive. He’s all about his base. About his base. He’s bringing his stupid back. He said they’ll manage of the maniac, He likes the dummies who don’t give him flack. Cause there is basing they’ll believe whatever comes out of that shithole on his face. Michelle Obama, says when they go low that’s when we go high. But if we get any higher, we’re scared we might touch the sky. And though he’s quick to take credit for fixing this stuff he broke, you know that most of the country still thinks he is a great big joke. Randy rainbow.
Donnell Alexander (24:25):
That’s the WeedWeek podcast. Thank you, sister Kate.
Sister Kate (24:27):
Goodnight. Thank you.