By Sarah Kinosian

(Reuters) – Beneath every full moon on the outskirts of a village in central Mexico, a bunch of ladies in nun habits circle round a roaring hearth, cleanse themselves with burned sage, and provides thanks for the moon, animals, and vegetation.

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

Regardless of their clothes, the ladies are usually not Catholic or another faith. They’re a part of a global group based in 2014 referred to as Sisters of the Valley, which has pledged to unfold the gospel of the therapeutic powers of hashish.

In america, the place round two dozen states have legalized leisure marijuana, the group has additionally launched a profitable small enterprise, promoting CBD tinctures, oils and salves on-line, and raking in over $500,000 final 12 months.

However in Mexico, the place a drug conflict has ravaged the nation and Christianity is embedded in society, the picture of a marijuana-smoking nun is extra an act of rebel, the ladies say.

The sisters steadily publish on social media, primarily Instagram, the place they are often seen caring for hashish crops, giving workshops, and attending cannabis-related occasions.

Their product gross sales are a fraction of that of their U.S. sisters – round $10,000 yearly.

Whereas distinguished on-line, the ladies – 5 in complete – are cautious about giving freely an excessive amount of concerning the location of their operations. They conduct enterprise out of a two-story concrete false storefront with one completed room.

As a result of hashish sits in a authorized grey space in Mexico and far of its manufacturing continues to be tied to legal organizations, they fear police or native gangsters might arrive to threaten or extort them.

On a latest weekend when Reuters visited, the curtains remained drawn. Bundles of marijuana dried in clandestine crevices – hanging from a tucked-away laundry line, or hidden within the range.

“The Sisterhood is in a very completely different context right here in Mexico – due to how non secular the nation is and due to the plant’s ties to cartels,” mentioned one of many nuns, who makes use of the moniker “Sister Bernardet” on-line and requested to not give her identify for worry of reprisal. In her primary job as a homeopathic practitioner, she prescribes marijuana to her sufferers with most cancers, joint ache and insomnia.

“We need to take the plant again from the narcos,” she mentioned.

The Sisters vogue themselves after a lay non secular motion, the Beguines, that dates again to the Center Ages. The group, made up of single girls, devoted itself to spirituality, scholarship and charity, however took no formal vows.

The Sisters globally say they put on habits to mission uniformity and respect for the plant, however additionally they understand it catches media consideration.

Underneath the steerage of Alehli Paz, a chemist and marijuana researcher working with the group, the Sisters in Mexico develop a modest crop.

They pot vegetation in outdated paint buckets and place them in rows between 4 unfinished concrete partitions on a rooftop.

As soon as grown, the Sisters transfer the vegetation to walled-off personal gardens they recognized with assist from supportive older girls in the neighborhood.

Their participation is proscribed to weekends they will steal away from their lives. Powered by a seemingly endless stream of joints and packed pipe bowls, the ladies spend time on the farm pruning vegetation, producing cannabinoid salves or weighing and storing completely different strains, labeled and dated, in outdated glass espresso jars.

In addition they go to others in Mexico Metropolis pushing for full legalization within the rising hashish group, or give workshops that contact on every thing from tips on how to make weed infusions to the chemistry behind the plant.

Enterprise potential apart, they argue that the combat towards medicine in Latin America has been a failure, resulting in widespread violence and mass incarceration.

However in a roughly 75% Catholic majority, conservative nation locked in a drug conflict with legal teams for almost 20 years, becoming a member of the Sisters has created stress in almost the entire girls’s households.

Its founder in Mexico, who calls herself “Sister Camilla” on-line and declined to provide her identify, grew up in an evangelical family and left house at 16 due, partially, to her mom’s strict non secular code, she mentioned. When she began Sisters of the Valley Mexico, the connection grew to become much more strained.

“It was onerous for her to just accept,” she mentioned. “She had sure concepts, closely formed by faith.”

However as we speak, after prolonged discussions concerning the plant and the legalization motion, her mom is pivotal to the group’s operations, serving to to keep up the farm and providing different logistical assist, she mentioned.

For one more nun who works as a church secretary, makes use of the moniker “Sister Kika” and requested her identify not be used, the mission is obvious. “It is time to put an finish to this stupidity,” she mentioned.

(Images by Raquel Cunha; Reporting and writing by Sarah Kinosian; Further reporting by Andrea Rodriguez; Enhancing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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