No, you are not hallucinating: that really is a NUN with a joint. And she not only smokes cannabis, she sells it – legally – to ease pain and suffering. So is she a sister of mercy, or just a misguided . . .
‘This felt worse than 100 hangovers’
MOST nuns devote themselves t o prayer and spiritual contemplation, but you might say the Sisters of the Valley have fallen into bad habits – as they spend their days tending and smoking marijuana.
This bizarre order in the quiet country town of Merced in California is just one of the extraordinary stops on the route of the celebrities in the new ITV show Gone To Pot.
Christopher Biggins and Birds Of A Feather’s Linda Robson are among the stars visiting the states in America which have legalised marijuana, for a series addressing the hugely controversial debate over whether the drug should be allowed in Britain.
Pro-legalisation campaigners point to its supposed medical benefits – as do the Sisters of the Valley, who make oils, salves and soaps from the drug they describe as a ‘gift from God’ and which they claim provides relief from the symptoms of arthritis, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
But in Britain others remain firmly convinced the law must not change and point to the lives damaged and even lost to the drug. An inquest last week found Polly Ross, 32, had developed ‘drug-induced psychosis’ caused by marijuana she had been smoking to ease her morning sickness before she killed herself by stepping out in front of a train.
In California, it has been legal for 21 years to purchase marijuana for medicinal purposes and the state voted last year for recreational use to be legalised too.
Biggins and Pam St Clement – who played Pat Butcher in EastEnders – began their three-week journey in San Francisco, California.
All the stars in Gone To Pot suffer from medical conditions which it is claimed can be eased with cannabis. After discussion with a doctor, they obtained licences allowing them to buy marijuana.
The drug has two active compounds associated with medicinal properties – cannabidiol (CBD), which is said to help with pain relief; and tetra hydrocan na binol(THC), the part of the plant which produces a ‘high’ and is also claimed to act as a relaxant.
Suffering from mood swings and hot flushes, Ms Robson, 59, was looking for a remedy from the symptoms of menopause, and also her difficulty sleeping due to jet-lag. In Oakland, California, she bought a cannabis brownie from the Harborside Health Center marijuana dispensary, where the shelves are brimming over with plants, oils, crisps, cookies and chocolates containing the drug.
After being up until 4am, Robson decided to eat the brownie. ‘I felt so relaxed and then I went back to sleep for four hours,’ she said.
Biggins, 68, who suffers pain in his hip and back, bought an oil containing CBD and he too found it seemed to work. He said: ‘Having taken the medical marijuana and rubbed it on to my thighs and around my knee area, I was amazed how when I went for my nightly pee how quickly I got out of bed.’
But Biggins had a very different experience when the stars visited the home of 94-year-old chef Nonna Marijuana, who has earned renown for her cooking using marijuana-infused butter. They enjoyed a meal in which almost every dish – including gnocchi, ratatouille and even ice cream – was laced with marijuana.
Biggins, who suffers from asthma and never smokes, devoured the dishes with delight but hours afterwards began to feel unwell. Eventually, he became violently sick, vomiting a total of 25 times over an agonising few hours.
Darts superstar Bobby George also became ill after the meal, and said it felt ‘worse than 100 hangovers’.
At the Sisters of the Valley convent, the ITV stars were greeted by the nuns performing a welcoming ritual of holding bunches of burning sage billowing with smoke. The nuns harvest marijuana plants and heat them with coconut oil for three hours to produce their tinctures.
Former footballer John Fashanu, 55, has never taken drugs or drunk alcohol. He agreed to being given a mas-
sage using CBD oil by one of the nuns to help with his arthritic knees, but complained it had left him smelling like a ‘junkie’.
As well as producing oils for pain relief the nuns grow cannabis containing THC which they smoke for pleasure. Soap star Ms St Clement, 75, has polymyalgia rheumatica and has had a knee replacement. After smoking a joint with the nuns, she said: ‘That first puff with the nuns – after a few minutes you just got a lovely relaxed feeling.’
Last year, t he women made £840,000 from sales of their medic- inal plants. They sell their products all over the world and their thirdbiggest market is the UK.
Former world champion darts player Bobby George smoked a joint with the sisters. The 71-yearold, who takes 16 pain pills a day after he broke his back, said: ‘Two or three puffs makes you feel like you’ve had four-and-a-half pints.’
The Sisters of the Valley were started by former Catholic Christine Meeusen, 58, known as Sister Kate, who began dressing as a nun to protest against the American government during the Occupy movement. She founded the ‘order’ three years ago and set up the farm. Since then four other women have moved in with her at her ‘abbey’. Although not a religious order, the nuns believe in God, and base their beliefs on 13th Century Beguines – a group of European single women who chose to live in poverty and valued female independence. Unlike traditional Catholic nuns, the sisters do not have a vow of chastity and keep their sex lives private.
Sister Kate, a mother of three, said: ‘We are humble, God-fearing women but we refer to God as a woman. We believe cannabis is a gift from God.
‘As well as medicinal plants, we also grow plants containing THC – which we smoke. For us it’s not about getting high, it’s medicine. There are many more harmful drugs in the world such as prescrip- tion pills and alcohol. Cannabis should be legal. The local farmers think what we do is blasphemous but we are incredibly popular around the world. We wear the habits as a mark of respect to our native mothers. We do a lot of charity work and are a lot more peaceful than many genuine religions.
‘Next week we are going to ordain our first former Catholic nun.’
The three-part series Gone To Pot American Road Trip will be on ITV at 9pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
‘We believe the drug is a gift from God’
SMOKING NUN: One of the Sisters of the Valley smokes marijuana – watched by Pam St Clement
ROAD TRIP: Pam St Clement and Christopher Biggins
BURNING ISSUE: The ‘nuns’ wait to greet their Gone To Pot celebrity guests. Below: The marijuana oil they make and sell