cannabis

Small steps toward clarity: Reuters takes (yet) another look at media-friendly 'weed nuns'

Small steps toward clarity: Reuters takes (yet) another look at media-friendly 'weed nuns'

When it comes to effective public-relations campaigns, California's Sisters of the Valley -- the "weed nuns" -- take the cake.

Well, now that I think about it, that would probably be brownies, not cake.

The problem, of course, is (a) these nuns are not real Catholic nuns and (b) their love of traditional religious garb make them look like nuns. In the past this has been confusing to journalists, especially those looking for a novelty story, as opposed to a piece of fact-based religion coverage.

One of the all-time classic stories stirred up by the PR efforts of the sisters ran at Newsweek (surprise, surprise). That led to a blog piece by Catholic Deacon Greg Kandra, a former CBS News professional who, before moving to the altar and pulpit, won two Emmys and two Peabody Awards. The blunt headline:

Newsweek, Go Home. You’re Drunk. Those Aren’t Nuns.

Now, the lede on the Newsweek did say that the nuns were "self-proclaimed" -- but the visuals probably overwhelmed that one moment of clarity (which wasn't explained very well) for most readers.

So now, Reuters is back with yet another "weed sisters" report, which has been distributed by Religion News Service. In terms of factual clarity, this piece deserves attention. It is a step forward, in terms of "weed sisters" PR materials. Here is the overture:

MERCED, Calif. (Reuters) The Sisters of the Valley, California’s self-ordained “weed nuns,” are on a mission to heal and empower women with their cannabis products.
Based near the town of Merced in the Central Valley, which produces over half of the fruit, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States, the Sisters of the Valley grow and harvest their own cannabis plants.
The sisterhood stresses that its seven members, despite the moniker, do not belong to any order of the Catholic Church.

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With apologies for a tired old pun: Should church leaders talk about going to pot?

With apologies for a tired old pun: Should church leaders talk about going to pot?

As California this year becomes the eighth state to legalize “recreational” marijuana (as opposed to “medical” uses), what do American religious groups have to say about this cultural lurch?

Not much, says an accurate complaint in The Christian Century’s Jan. 3 cover story “Talking About Marijuana -- in Church.” Author Adam Hearlson laments that churches are hesitant to openly discuss such a pertinent issue, and implies they should consider support for liberalization. 

It's past time for the news media to consult religious thinkers about this.

Church wariness is reflected in the fact that the “mainline” Protestant magazine itself identified Hearlson only vaguely as “a minister, writer, scholar.” In fact he teaches preaching and worship and directs the chapel at the nation’s oldest seminary, Andover Newton (which after years of decline is about to shut down and be absorbed by Yale Divinity School).

One obvious story peg is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has overturned Obama Administration policy, giving federal prosecutors discretion to enforce anti-pot laws, even in states where it’s legal. Both parties in the U.S. Congress have kept such laws on the books, and Department of Justice concern did not originate with the Trump Administration (.pdf document here).

Leaving aside libertarians who insist government should simply leave us alone, proponents offer three key arguments for an open “recreational” market:

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'God and cannabis': Newspaper offers serious take on church that believes in smoking marijuana

'God and cannabis': Newspaper offers serious take on church that believes in smoking marijuana

Ever heard of a pot-smoking church?

If you pay attention to the news, such churches seem difficult to miss lately.

When Indiana passed its religious freedom law in 2015, questions — and controversy — arose as to whether the measure would open the legal door to the First Church Of Cannabis.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times gave national coverage to the Stoner Jesus Bible Study in Centennial, Colo.

And most recently, longtime religion writer Greg Garrison of the Birmingham News and Alabama Media Group profiled a pro-marijuana church (as part of a series on marijuana in that Bible Belt state):

With a stained-glass window behind them, a lineup of speakers stepped to the front of the church and talked about the potential health benefits of legalizing plants that are currently outlawed in Alabama.
"I smoke cannabis on a daily basis for my pain," said Janice Rushing, president of the Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light in Alabama. "If I did not, I'd be on pain pills."
Her husband, Christopher Rushing, chief executive officer of Oklevueha Native American Church of Inner Light, says he also uses marijuana routinely.
The Rushings founded the Oklevueha Church in 2015 and claim that it has a legal exemption for its members to smoke marijuana and ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms and peyote cactus.
At a January forum with an audience of about 30 gathered at Unity Church in Birmingham, which allowed the use of its facilities, speakers discussed the potential benefits of marijuana and other substances for medicinal purposes.
"I had an ungodly facial rash," said Sherrie Saunders, a former U.S. Army medic who is now a member of Oklevueha Native American Church in Alabama.
"We made a cream that completely got rid of that rash," Mrs. Rushing said.
Someone in the audience discussed a heart problem and sleep apnea.
"That could be something that cannabis could help," Saunders said.

Kudos to Garrison for a solid piece of reporting on — believe it or not — "God and cannabis."

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Deacon Greg Kandra states the obvious: That Newsweek 'nuns' story was beyond absurd

Deacon Greg Kandra states the obvious: That Newsweek 'nuns' story was beyond absurd

No doubt about it, news professionals do love images of nuns who look like nuns. How many news stories have you seen, in recent years, about tensions between the Vatican and liberal religious orders for women (those who lean toward pant suits and similar business attire) that have been illustrated with photos of old-school nuns wearing traditional habits?

Journalists also like stories about nuns doing things that would shock the public, or at the very least might shock traditional Catholics. Remember this recent example?

This brings me to that recent Newsweek story that ran under this headline (all upper-case letters in the original):

CALIFORNIA NUNS SEEK PROTECTION FOR THEIR CANNABIS BUSINESS

The top of the story offered this information:

Two Northern California habit-wearing nuns, the self-proclaimed “Sisters of the Valley,” say their cannabis business is under threat now that the Merced City Council is considering a full ban on all marijuana cultivation in the city. Should the measure pass next week, Sister Kate and Sister Darcy may need to eliminate the small crop of pot plants they have growing in their garage.
The pair produces salves, tonics and tinctures from the plants they sell on Etsy for pain management.

That produced this epic headline on a response post at Aleteia.org by Deacon Greg Kandra, a former CBS News writer with 26 years of news experience, two Emmys and two Peabody Awards to his credit.

Newsweek, Go Home. You’re Drunk. Those Aren’t Nuns.

Now the key here are two words slipped into the Newsweek lede -- "self-proclaimed." I

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