MERCED (CBSLA.com) — A group of self-proclaimed sisters in California's Central Valley involved in making products that contain CBD, a compound found in marijuana plants, are facing a setback after online sales of their products on one site were halted.
As Christine Meeusen explains, the ability of the Sisters of the Valley to sell CBD-infused products on Etsy.com, a portal for homemade and handmade goods, was suspended last Thursday.
Since July, she said they had been running their business on the site, selling up $600 in goods a day.
Meeusen, known as Sister Kate, says the site took issue with three of their products, two of which don't contain cannabis.
Yet, she says, the site objected to the product descriptions over allegations that they made healing claims. The third product she says was a topical CBD multipurpose salve.
"Their stance was that you cannot sell with THC [tetrahydrocannabinol]," she said, explaining that the products she sold on Etsy had no THC since they contain less than 1 percent of the ingredient.
"Anything less than 1 percent is considered 'trace THC' and is considered 'zero THC' and is not subject to Schedule I regulation," claims Sister Kate, pointing to a 2004 federal court ruling.
"Most of our product rank below 0.5 percent THC, so that it is legal," she said. "Nothing we sell would ever get anyone high."
"We don't comment on specific members or shops. Anyone who lists an item for sale on Etsy agrees to follow all applicable laws and follow our policies," Etsy said in a statement. "Our policies do not allow drugs, drug paraphernalia, or listings that contain medical drug claims, to be sold on Etsy. Many CBD items contain THC, which is prohibited under our policies. You can read more about our Prohibited Items Policy here."
Sister Kate, who describes herself as a "disenfranchised Catholic," says the Sisters of the Valley is a non-religious but spiritual order.
"A lot of what we are is what the nuns would do," she said, explaining that the sisters adhere to six vows. Among them is a vow of obedience to the planting and moon cycles, which dictate when they prepare their medicine.
"We have created a new-age activist sisterhood," she said, explaining that their order has been in existence for 16 months.
She along with Darcy Johnson, known as Sister Darcy, live together on a 1-acre farm in Merced, where they cultivate plants she says utilize strains of cannabis plants that are nonpsychoactive. A third sister lives in Mendocino County and has worked with cancer patients for 18 years.
"They are cannabis that have been bred to be high in CBD and to have virtually no THC," she said of their plants. "Our plants are nonpsychoactive, and we believe that for the law to impose Schedule I drug laws on us is wrong and illegal."
Two weeks out of the month, she says, the sisters make their products, which include infused oils, CBD tinctures and CBD salves.
Prior to the creation of the Sisters of the Valley, which is registered as a limited liability corporation, Sister Kate ran a cannabis club for four years and also worked with patients.
For now, she says, the sisters plan to sell their products on their own website. They have set up a GoFundMe page and hope to raise $10,000 to assist them during this transition.
"In the end, when you are providing holistic medicine with people who need it, it's a calling," she said.
While she says they make no claims, Sister Kate says they have been told their salves have healed mouth sores, toothaches, migraines and offered relief to fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis patients.
It's not clear if the sisters' business will be able to continue to operate, as Merced in January voted in favor of a proposed ban on marijuana growing within city limits.
"We reside in a very big gray area in the laws, and we operate in faith that no judge would really want to shut us down," she added.
Yet, as attorney and CBS2/KCAL9 Legal Analyst Steve Meister points out, "California law permits cultivation of a limited number of plants, either by a patient or a primary caregiver, for the patient's own medical use."
"I don't know whether the Sisters are representing that they are patients or caregivers, and they are not claiming to be a grower-collective or cooperative," said Meister, adding: "Further, to my reading, their reliance on the 2004 federal case appears to be misplaced. To me, the safest way for them to pursue their spiritual, communal and entrepreneurial goals would be to lawyer up if they haven't already."
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