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These California Nuns Grow Medical Marijuana, But Their City Wants to Shut Them Down

Health + Wellness
These California Nuns Grow Medical Marijuana, But Their City Wants to Shut Them Down

Two self-proclaimed nuns, Sister Kate and Sister Darcey, grow and sell marijuana for medicinal purposes in Merced, California. But the future of their business is now in jeopardy as the Merced City Council issued a temporary ban on marijuana cultivation after a 6-0 vote on Jan. 4.

The Sisters of the Valley grow and sell medical marijuana products in Merced, California. However, the city recently placed a temporary ban on marijuana cultivation, putting the sisters' business at risk. Photo credit: Sisters of the Valley

The Sisters of the Valley sell their line of medicinal salves, tonics and tinctures on Etsy. Their products, which are independently certified as organic, are high in CBD, or cannabidiol, a cannabis compound that has been shown to have significant medical benefits, and low in THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the better known cannabis compound with psychoactive properties.

According to the sisters, they make the medicine based on "ancient ritual," which involves turning their cannabis tinctures every morning and night, only bottling tinctures during a full moon and saying a healing prayer over every bottle and jar before it's sold.

"We make CBD oil, which takes away seizures and a million other things," Sister Kate told ABC News. "It's very high in demand from cancer patients right now. And we make a salve that's a multi-purpose salve, but we found out it cures migraines, hangovers, earaches, tooth aches and diaper rash." The salve is made from cannabis trim, coconut oil, vitamin E, lavender oil, calendula oil and beeswax.

But now, even though the sisters feel that their products are vital to their patients, they are in legal limbo. "It's frustrating to me because there are all of these people with negative attitudes about something that is truly God's gift," Sister Darcey told ABC News.

"The city council said it needs to do more research to determine the maximum number of dispensaries that should be allowed in Merced, which zones would be best for dispensaries or delivery services and if outdoor cultivation has setbacks," the Merced Sun-Star reported. "A second reading of the ordinance will be at the next meeting on Jan. 19. The ordinance becomes official 30 days later."

Merced is among dozens of municipalities in California moving to ban various aspects of cannabis cultivation, thanks to a loophole in the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which passed in October 2015. California voters approved medical marijuana nearly 20 years ago, but it wasn't until October that the state adopted regulations for the growth, transport and sale of cannabis. The legislation was hailed by lawmakers as "a comprehensive framework to regulate the industry," but there was one "glitch," as The San Francisco Chronicle put it.

"A provision written into the law said that if cities didn’t adopt their own land use regulations for allowing medical cannabis cultivation permits by March 1, the state would assume that responsibility," The Chronicle reported. So, cities such as Merced, are enacting their own ordinances so they can retain local control on regulations.

But that March 1 date was actually a typo, the author of the bill, Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), told The Los Angeles Times. The bill shouldn’t have included that stipulation, or any deadline at all, he said. Wood hopes to pass emergency legislation this month to supersede efforts from lawmakers in cities like Merced.

The point may soon be moot. Merced city councilman Kevin Blake told the Merced Sun-Star that recreational marijuana is expected to be on the state ballot in November. “I give it a year or two and this may all be irrelevant,” he said about the debate surrounding the local ordinance on medical marijuana.

Watch this clip from NowThis for more on the Sisters of the Valley (spoiler alert: they're fans of Bernie Sanders):

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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